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Crackdown on muggers who target €250 mobiles

A MAJOR crackdown on the theft of smartphones is to be launched after figures reveal a stark increase in robberies.

An action plan to help prevent phone muggings is being drawn up by City Hall's Joint Policing Committee.

The JPC -- a forum for councillors, TDs, gardai and community leaders -- is expected to present the scheme next month.

While the details have not been decided, committee chairman Fine Gael's Gerry Breen told the Herald the issue is now a priority.

He said: "It's like a personal assault. Generally, the person is holding the phone to their ear when it is grabbed off them."

One aspect is likely to focus on increasing awareness among the public about installing tracking apps on their phones and also noting down their device's unique IMEI number, which can then be used to block a stolen phone's access to GSM networks.

It comes as figures published in the Herald showed almost 6,000 smartphones were snatched in the first eight months of the year -- a 20pc increase on the same period last year. New statistics reveal that some 5,989 incidents of mobile phone thefts were recorded nationwide by gardai between January and August.

There is a 50/50 split between iPhone thefts and other high-end smartphones.

Other popular devices include the Samsung Galaxy.

The average value of the smartphones stolen this year was €250.

Victims have reported being targeted by individuals riding bikes, giving rise to the term BMX robberies.

Thieves in Dublin are specifically stealing high-end phones and then reselling them within minutes.

Separate data shows that street thefts in Dublin city's premier shopping and tourist zone have risen sharply.

The number of theft offences including muggings and shoplifting in Dublin 2 shot up by 30pc in just 12 months.

The increase was recorded by Pearse Street Garda Station between 2010 and 2011, when the figure went from 2,737 and 3,567.

Pearse Street covers important shopping and tourist districts like Grafton Street, Temple Bar and Dame Street.