Muggers target mobile phone users in spate of violent thefts

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POLICE were today continuing a crackdown on muggers in the wake of a spate of assaults and robberies where mobile phone owners were targeted.

Pizzeria worker Kerry Purves became the latest victim of a phone theft after he was viciously attacked by a pair of teen muggers while he checked his Facebook page on his Blackberry device.

The incident follows a robbery last Monday when a gang of up to eight teenagers assaulted a 42-year-old woman on Princes Street and stole her mobile while she was in the middle of a call.

Police advise mobile users to be aware of their surroundings when using a phone and not to flaunt expensive devices if possible. A total of 280 street robberies were recorded last year in the city, up 19 per cent on the previous year’s figure of 235.

Police chiefs launched Operation Arable in a bid to clamp down on such street robberies, and warned young people that they are more likely to be targeted by muggers seeking phones, iPods and other portable devices.

Mr Purves was punched to the ground by the teenage thugs after they saw him using his Blackberry moments after he turned off Leith Walk on Friday.

The 25-year-old had his nose and mouth burst open by three punches, which left him sprawled on the pavement following the attack just after 1am.

Mr Purves said: “I finished work at 11.30pm at Papa John’s on Leith Walk and went to Boda for one drink with a colleague. I left the bar at 1am and walked down Leith Walk then took the left on to Great Junction Street.

“I was looking at my Facebook page on my phone when I saw these two guys walking towards me. They looked pretty dodgy so I thought about crossing the street but I decided to keep looking at my phone and walk past them.

“I was still looking at my phone when I felt two punches, one to each side of my head. One of them grabbed my Blackberry and then I got another punch across the jaw.

“When I was lying on the ground I could hear one of them say, ‘Just leave him, just leave him’. There was blood pouring out my mouth and nose.”

Paramedics attended Mr Purves’ home in Leith, but decided he did not need hospital treatment.

Mr Purves added: “I think they wanted my phone, that’s all. It might not have happened if I hadn’t been using it at the time.”

The first suspect is described as white, 6ft 2in tall with a skinny build, short dark hair and wearing a white top and jeans.

The second suspect is described as white, 6ft 2in tall with a skinny build and wearing a dark top and jeans.

A police spokesman said: “This has been a random and opportunistic assault and robbery.

“We are keen to hear from anyone who was on Leith Walk at around 1.10am on Friday morning and who witnessed this attack or who can help us identify the men responsible.”

ON CALL

DEVELOPERS and the police have designed a range of tools to combat mobile phone crime.

IGotYa is an application that can sense if your passcode is being tampered with and will take a picture of the person trying to use it. The programme then sends the picture, along with the individual’s GPS location, to a designated e-mail address.

Find My iPhone is a free app that interacts with other online devices to find a stolen phone and protect its data. It will locate a stolen or missing mobile and can also display a message or play a sound, remotely lock the phone, or erase any information stored on it.

Other ways of combating theft include recording your mobile’s International Mobile Equipment Identity number.

A stolen or lost mobile can also be reported to the Immobilise crimeline on 08701 123 123.