Mobile phone thefts difficult to curb -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Mobile phone thefts difficult to curb

KARACHI – The increasing thefts and snatching of mobile phone sets are very difficult to check as the service providers are reluctant to make phone sets inoperative on the request of their owners.

Sources in the police department said if the service providers had been using the option of blocking mobile phone sets in such cases, it could have helped reduce the incidents of theft and snatching of sets to a large extent.

However, they said the inaction of the service providers had encouraged robbers and muggers to snatch or steal mobile phones from people. Their sale and resale was also on the rise in the market as there was no proper check there either.

The police department had on Monday issued an advisory for people asking them to note down the serial numbers of their mobile sets, and ask their respective service providers to block the SIM as well as the phone set, in case of theft or snatching.

Officials of all four service providers said that, after the news appeared in a section of the press, their helpline numbers were flooded with calls by subscribers asking questions about the police advisory. People were curious to know if their respective mobile phone company had such a system or facility of blocking their phone sets.

Police officials said 50-80 mobile phone sets were either snatched or stolen every day in Karachi. Most of the victims remained hesitant to go to police stations and get a case registered.

Police sources said that a majority of the stolen mobile phone sets were then resold at cheaper rates in the Electronics Market of Saddar.

A senior police official said: “We cannot put a check on re- sale of mobile phone sets, as there are a number of problems. The association of the (Electronics) market is also unable to stop their member shopkeepers from buying these sets.” He said the market association threatened agitation if the police took any harsh step.

The unchecked sale and resale of mobile phone sets had perturbed law enforcers, who in collaboration with the market association had put some checks. But, these too proved ineffective.

People are seen roaming on the market’s streets and asking passers-by if they wanted to sell their sets. Shopkeepers claimed that they had nothing to do with people roaming in the markets.

The police also picked up people indulged in selling and re-selling of phones, but they were later released on market pressure.

A senior police official said: “Every mobile phone set has a registration (serial) number, and the service provider can block the set (on the basis of the number). It is much easier to control robberies if this option to disable phone sets is exercised.”

The Mobilink GSM company does not exercise the option of blocking mobile phone sets in case of any eventuality.

An official of the company said: “We do have the technology of blocking phone sets but we don’t have directives from the management to exercise the option. As and when the policy decision is taken at the top level, subscribers will be informed about it.”

Similarly, an official of Ufone, a PTCL subsidiary, also acknowledged of possessing the technology, but he declined to state as to why the company was not using it.

The other two companies, Paktel and the Instaphone, were too, reluctant to use the phone blocking technology.

Not using the option was in favour of the mobile phone manufacturers and the service providers, a police official said, adding if the technology was exercised, snatching and theft incidents of mobile phone sets would come down, which would definitely effect the sale of new phone sets.

He was of the view that the service providers of mobile phone connections in the country were inadvertently or otherwise supporting robbers of mobile phone sets by not exercising the option of blocking mobile phone sets.

Source: Dawn

Date:10/28/2004