Police chief blames iPod thieves for street-crime rise

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The Independent Online

iPod owners are increasingly being targeted by muggers who can spot the digital music players by their distinctive white leads, the country's most senior police chief has said.

iPod owners are increasingly being targeted by muggers who can spot the digital music players by their distinctive white leads, the country's most senior police chief has said.

The desirability of the players is partly to blame for a steep increase in robberies on the streets of London, according to Sir Ian Blair, the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

The popularity and value of the new generation of mobile phones, which include cameras and music players, is also behind the surge in street snatches.

The number of robberies, including street muggings, in the capital rose by 26 per cent last month, compared with April last year. There were an extra 822, up to 3,934, in that period. Street thefts of iPods have risen from 10 in November 2004 to 52 so far this month. All crime in which an iPod was stolen has more than doubled to around 400 so far this month.

Sir Ian, speaking at the Metropolitan Police Authority in London, said: "In street robbery our concern has been around the smaller portable pieces of kit - the new generation of mobile phones and iPods. iPods have different coloured leads; it is very obvious when someone is wearing an iPod. That is what is fuelling this."

iPods have been a huge successful for Apple, the company that makes them, with worldwide sales above five million in the first three months of this year. The standard model costs around £200. The distinguishing feature that helps muggers identify an iPod from another digital music player is the white set of leads and earphones.

Another reason for the rise in street crime is the "happy slapping" craze, in which attacks or mugging are filmed or photographed on mobile phones, the Met said. An assistant commissioner, Tim Godwin, said: "We still have a happy-slapping campaign where young people assault other young people for no reason other than to get a kick," he said. "They are mainly schoolboy robberies. The big issue we have to confront is the issue of youth crime and youth culture."

While the number of robberies has leapt in the past month, with only one in 10 thefts being detected by the police, the figures for the past year have been static. More than half of all street crime in London involves the theft of a mobile phone and it is believed that more than 700,000 are stolen each year.

New figures released yesterday also show a rise in gun crime of 35.4 per cent in April compared to the same period last year. Last month London suffered a four-fold increase in shootings, rising to a record total of 49, including three dead. This compares with 12 shootings in the same month last year.

Overall annual crime figures for London were positive with a drop in reported offences of 4.2 per cent down to 1,014,390 in the year ending April 2005 compared with 2003-04. Recorded crime in all categories except violent offences has gone down.