Study: London’s Phone Theft Hotspots Revealed

Recently, the City of London has seen an increase in phone snatching, whereby devices are stolen by thieves on mopeds and bikes, from unsuspecting people by the side of the road.

Each year, thousands of mobile phones are stolen by pickpockets, opportunistic thieves at restaurants/bars, and drive-by snatchers.

This raises the question – where are London’s phone theft hotspots? Which boroughs have the highest rates of phones being stolen from the person?

London phone theft study

To find out where you’re most likely to have your phone stolen in London, we made a freedom of information request to the Metropolitan Police.

We obtained data on the total number of phones stolen from the person in each London borough in the previous calendar year.

Complete data

RankBoroughPhones stolenPopulationRate of theft (per 1000 people)
7Kensington & Chelsea6631561974.24
8Tower Hamlets12143119453.89
11Hammersmith & Fulham4741854262.56
13Waltham Forest4392767001.59
14Kingston Upon Thames2631754701.50
19Barking & Dagenham2472119881.17
30Richmond Upon Thames911969040.46

Phone theft hot-spots

London phone theft hotspots diagram.

The places you’re most likely to have your phone stolen in London are:

1. Westminster (5911 phones stolen, 23.96 per 1000 people)

Westminster has the most crime reported of any borough in London, according to the Office for National Statistics, so it makes sense that it also has the highest rate of phone theft. However, the rate of phone theft is extremely high, at more than double the rate of the second-highest borough.

The main reason Westminster has double the theft rate of any other borough is the number of pubs and bars in the area. Opportunistic thieves often snatch phones from restaurant tables and bar counters – pub patrons should be particularly wary of this, no matter where you are in London. It’s important to never leave your phone out of sight when out in public, even for a split-second.

2. Camden (2494 phones stolen, 9.51 per 1000 people)

Neighbouring Camden also has a very high rate of phone theft, in part because it also suffers from a higher crime rate than the London average.

Like Westminster, Camden also has a thriving bar scene and plenty of nightlife, giving thieves plenty of chances to steal phones from unsuspecting pub-goers. However, as the borough is also home to shopping precincts and markets with plenty of foot traffic, Camden is also a pickpocket’s dream when it comes to stealing smartphones.

3. Hackney (2468 phones stolen, 8.82 per 1000 people)

Hackney is a trendy, popular borough, with an active nightlife, but also a high rate of knife crime, and other violent offences.

The high rate of phone theft in Hackney is likely a combination of phones being stolen from unsuspecting restaurant and pub patrons, as well as muggings and drive-by snatchings of phones from the person.

Phone theft not-spots

The places you’re least likely to have your phone stolen in London are Bexley, Richard Upon Thames, and Sutton, at a rate of 0.22, 0.45, and 0.46 phones stolen per thousand people respectively.

Each of these areas is a relatively quiet borough in Greater London, with a much lower overall crime rate than the city average. These areas also have fewer areas of heavy foot traffic, and fewer busy bars and pubs where thieves and pickpockets can operate.

How to prevent your phone from being stolen in London

No matter where you are in London, there are a number of things you should do to prevent your phone from being stolen.

  • Never leave your phone unattended in a public space, such as on a train seat or restaurant table, and never leave your device out of sight.
  • Avoid keeping your phone in your back pocket, especially if you don’t have deep pockets. Use a front pocket if you have one, or keep your phone deep within your backpack or purse.
  • In busy areas, be wary of people brushing up against you – they could be pickpockets.
  • Avoid texting while standing on the pavement, such as when waiting to cross the road.
  • Avoid texting while walking – this makes it easier for people to snatch your phone, as you’re much less aware of what’s going on around you.
  • If you do need to pull your phone out on the pavement, be wary of bikes and mopeds nearby.

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