TEENAGERS made up more than half of the robbers arrested for stealing mobile phones in street muggings during the last three years, it was revealed today.
A total of 79 teenagers, some as young as 13, were charged with stealing phones from their owners in Lothian and Borders between January 2010 and this September.
Police said teenagers were often behind phone robberies due to the “competitive” desire to have the latest and most expensive models.
Officers said that teenagers frequently targeted phone owners of the same age.
Last Thursday, a 16-year-old was robbed of his phone in Lasswade Road after being pushed to the ground by a pair of thieves. Police later arrested two 16-year-old boys over the theft who are set to appear in court.
The trend has prompted police to encourage pupils at Edinburgh schools to sign up to the iMMOBILISE database, a UK-wide scheme enabling owners to register their device’s serial number.
Sergeant Laura Brunton, from the Operable Arable team set up to target street robbers, said: “Young people are more aware of the latest technology and the most expensive and trendy phones. They are often seen as status symbols which they can show off in the same way as the latest designer clothes. They will know the new phones on the market and they can be quite competitive about which one they have.
“That has meant that some teenagers have committed robberies to get hold of phones, often from those of the same age.”
The new figures revealed that 128 phone robberies were committed in 2010, with 54 cases solved by police. Out of those arrested, 27 were teenagers.
In the following year, when 125 robberies were carried out, 33 out of the 57 arrests were teenagers.
And for the 70 phone muggings recorded in the first nine months of this year, 19 of the 33 individuals arrested were teens.
In each of those years, a 13-year-old was among those charged.
Sgt Brunton added: “Young people do become victims because of their phones and that is why we have targeted our iMMOBILISE campaign at schools through our school link officers.
“Some schools have IT classes where pupils have done bulk uploads of their phones, iPads and any other devices with a serial number.
“We have worked with eight schools and we’re hoping to roll it out to more, including beyond Edinburgh.
“It’s a big unknown where many of these phones end up so iMMOBILISE is a great way for us to build up intelligence on whether they are being kept for personal use by thieves or sold on.
“We would advise young people to take the same security advice as anyone else. Use a pin lock on your device which will disable many of the functions if they are stolen.
“And remember that these are expensive items so don’t take them out in public unless you need to.”
If a stolen device is recovered, officers can return it to the owner using the iMMOBILISE database while building up an intelligence picture of how the city’s illegal marketplace in phones operates.