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Mobile phone theft is the only rising crime in England, say cops

Crime stats for 2012 show almost all crimes falling in England and Wales -- except mobile phone theft.

Mobile phone theft is on the rise in England and Wales -- unlike virtually every other kind of crime. New official figures from the police show an 8 per cent rise of 'theft from the person' -- a fancy way of saying mugging -- to 107,471 incidents in 2012.

Police told The Guardian that was down to a rise in phones being nicked. Overall, crimes recorded by the police fell by 8 per cent compared to 2011.

Theft from the person was the only category of crime against adults that saw a rise in 2012. 90 per cent of such thefts are 'stealth thefts' -- pickpocketing -- where the victim was unaware of the theft, according to the Office for National Statistics.

That's borne out by a quick straw poll here in the CNET UK office. Only two of us have had phones filched, touch wood. Katie Collins, our production assistant, has had mobiles taken out of her handbag, and her bag itself snatched. The redoubtable Rich Trenholm woke up after a night of heavy, er, journalism to find his phone missing.

Whether Rich's loss counts as a theft is unclear. To claim on his insurance he had to get a crime number from the police here in London, who simply gave him a form to fill out. Whereas Katie was quizzed by Cheshire cops as to whether she'd simply lost her phone. So official counts of thefts may vary depending on where you report it.

The official crime survey -- a different measure to reported crime -- shows theft from the person down slightly, to 575,000 incidents from 595,000 the previous year. About 1.3 per cent of people said they were victims of the crime in 2012.

The survey interviews more than 40,000 people in England and Wales about their experience of crime. It's considered more accurate than looking only at reported crimes, partly because people may not bother to report a nicked phone to the police, but they would tell the survey. Scotland and Northern Ireland are treated differently because they have separate legal systems.

The mayor of New York blamed a rise in crime last year on people carrying around expensive iPhones and iPads. "The proliferation of people carrying expensive devices around is so great," according to a Big Apple spokesperson. "It's something that's never had to be dealt with before." Back in 2006, a rise in personal theft was blamed on people carrying iPods.

I'd recommend registering your phone with Immobilise, the property register used by police forces across the UK. It lets you report your valuables lost or stolen instantly -- the cops then check recovered swag against the database of missing stuff and return it to you if it turns up.

Have you had your phone nicked? Did you bother reporting it? Did the police help? Tell me your experiences in the comments, or over on our law-abiding Facebook page.