Personal theft

Get the facts

Want to know more about personal theft? Get the facts here.

What is personal theft?

It could be any one of these:

  • hiding someone's personal belongings so they permanently can’t find their property
  • stealing from someone's bag, coat pockets or locker
  • ‘borrowing’ something and then not giving it back
  • snatching things from people in the street or at school, such as mobile phones or MP3 players (“snatching” is taking something without threat or force)
  • it includes pickpocketing
  • robbery –does the theft of property and involves the use of force (or threat of it)

It might be someone you know who is stealing or it could be a complete stranger:

  • perhaps they're involved in bullying at school or on the way to or from school
  • maybe it is someone you consider to be a friend but who keeps on borrowing things from you and not giving them back
  • they could be someone who approaches you in the street who you've never seen before
  • you might not know who it is - especially if they're stealing from your bag

What is ‘steaming’?

Robbery sometimes happens in gangs or groups. ‘Steaming’ is a type of robbery that is uncommon, but does sometimes happen. Steaming is where a group of people rob an individual or other group of people, often using the threat of, or actual violence. Find out more about staying safe when you travel.

One of the most common things to have stolen is a mobile phone:

  • According to the National Mobile Phone Crime Unit mobile phones is the most frequently stolen item in street crime.
  • They also say that in approximately a third of all cases it is the only item of property stolen.

But here are a few basic steps you can take to reduce the risk of having your mobile phone, MPS player or any other item of valuable property stolen from you:

  • Take care when leaving school and in crowded places such as shopping centres, buses and at train/underground stations. Try to be aware of what's happening around you. Keep your mobile phone and other valuables out of sight.
  • Walking and texting at the same time can be dangerous, especially when crossing the road. You will be less aware of what is happening around you.
  • When you get off a bus or leave a tube or train station, don't use your phone immediately, leave it a while.
  • Don’t make it easy for criminals. Think before you use your phone in public or on public transport - especially at bus stops, the tube or train stations.
  • Keep a record of your phone's IMEI number - just type *#06# (star, hash, 06, hash) into your phone and it will display a fifteen digit number. You can use this number to register your phone free at You stand a very good chance of getting your phone back when stolen, particularly if the matter is reported to the police quickly. Don't wait until you get home. Get someone to ring the police on 101, or speak directly to a member of your school staff or a police officer. Always call 999 in an emergency.
  • Many of the latest mobile phones have apps that can help you find your phone. Make sure you download these and have them on your phone as they are free. If your phone is stolen, tell the police about your app and remember passwords.
  • If your mobile phone is stolen you must get it blocked by calling your Service Provider
  • If you do have your phone stolen, remember don't fight back; it's much safer to give them what they want than get hurt or injured.

The theft of a mobile phone and selling it onto someone else is a serious crime. So is the false reporting of a mobile phone being stolen so that you can claim on the insurance.

Never buy or accept a mobile phone that you believe may be stolen. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. This could get you arrested and result in a criminal record.

For more information and advice on how to stay safe, remember you can speak to your Safer Schools officer. If you have any information about a crime but feel unable to speak to the police, you can call the Crimestoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555 111.

For more information about mobile phone theft in particular, visit the National Mobile Phone Crime Unit page on the Metropolitan Police's main website.

Personal theft