With Delhi seeing an increase in street crime, especially phone snatching cases, the Delhi Police is planning to team up with internet service providers and the department of telecommunications to block stolen or robbed phones through the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number.
Senior police officers said they will note down the stolen/robbed phone’s IMEI number on a server and block the device immediately. This will act as a deterrent for criminals as they can no longer use the device, they said.
According to police, a total of 4,660 snatching cases have been reported in the city this year between January 1 and June 28. There has been an 11-15% increase in street crimes as compared to last year, with interstate gangs targeting mostly senior citizens and women, police said. The robbed phones are sold to “receivers” in and around Delhi who then resell them in other states, they added.
“It’s a menace and we have come up with the idea to immediately register data of all stolen phones and upload it on our servers and Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS). In a testing period of one month, we were able to block more than 950 IMEI numbers/phones. This way, the phone is of no use to the accused and the receiver will not be able to make money,” said a senior officer at the Delhi Police headquarters.
In March, the former police chief at a crime-review meeting had encouraged DCPs to upload IMEI details of stolen phones on CCTNS and the Delhi Police website.
International Mobile Equipment Identity is a unique digit code used to trace a phone in case of theft. Each device has an IMEI number that can be checked on the phone, online or on the phone’s box.
“The gangs thrive on profits they make by selling stolen phones every day. If we block the IMEI with help from internet service providers and our servers, the thieves will be left clueless and will have to discard the phone. Soon, receivers will also stop buying phones from thieves,” added the officer.
Police are also helping victims register on the Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR) to block their stolen phones.
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Some challenges, however, remain. A senior police officer posted in the Northern Range, who refused to be named, said, “We take complaints, register FIRs and ask the complainant if she/he wants to block the IMEI number. Many times, the victims don’t agree because once the device is blocked, the accused won’t be able to use it and will discard it and the person will never get their phone back. Instead, we are now enhancing our servers to trace the phones once a new SIM card is inserted.”
The cyber-crime unit said a few gangs have also started formatting stolen phones. “Mobile phones which don’t have a flexible operating system can be broken into. There is software that can change IMEI numbers of the phones as well. This might cause trouble for law-enforcement agencies in blocking stolen devices,” said an officer.