Bengaluru's stolen mobile market thriving

Agencies buy stolen phones, erase the IMEI numbers, and pack them off for sale to other states
Last Updated 17 August 2021, 07:06 IST

Mobile phone snatching has become rampant in Bengaluru. “It is the new chain snatching,” says Dr Sanjeev Patil, deputy commissioner of police, west zone. In the last five months, his men have recovered 150 stolen phones sold at throwaway prices.

The muggers are usually boys aged between 16 and 20 and they use the money to live it up with friends, he says.

“They usually target early morning walkers and people returning from work. Lonely stretches are where these offenders roam. They also choose roads that provide an easy escape,” he explains.

C K Baba, deputy commissioner of police, north-east zone, says he has been able to rein in mobile theft gangs.

“They make quick money when they sell these phones. Some offenders are well educated. They go through something called relative deprivation where they find that they don’t have something that others have,” he says.

The southern part of the city has fewer cases. Harish Pandey, deputy commissioner of police, south zone, says stolen mobiles are usually packed off to other
states. “There are agencies that deal with stolen mobile phones. They erase the IMEI numbers and send them to shops,” he says.

Thriving markets

A senior officer in the central division says he got the licences of a few shops selling stolen mobiles cancelled. Shops that deal in stolen phones are located in Majestic, Shivajinagar and K R Market. “We track these shops and get to know of the offenders. When we raid a shop, we find hundreds of phones without any documentation.”

“They claim they have come for repair but show no documents. We seize the mobiles and shut down the shop and write to the BBMP to cancel their trade licences,” explains the officer.

New phones have a good market. A phone costing Rs 70,000 is sold for half the price after it is stolen. Police use the IMEI numbers to track down the owners and return the mobiles.

Gangs start early in the morning near railways station and bus stands and end at 11 pm. “They steal a good number of phones in a day,” explains the officer.

(Published 22 January 2021, 17:11 IST)

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