With the launch of 3G services in the UK this week, and the accompanying £400 handsets required to use them, mobiles have never been a more attractive target for criminals. But a new initiative backed by the Metropolitan Police, the mobile phone industry and the Home Office aims to clamp down on phone theft.

The scheme, called Immobilise Phone Crime, hopes to bring home the message that stolen mobile phones will no longer work. Any lost or stolen handset will immediately be blocked across all UK networks, so even if a new SIM card is fitted the phone still won't work. This has been made possible by the introduction of a new central database of stolen and lost phones that can be shared by all UK networks.

The industry is backing the database by providing a hotline — is 08701 123 123 — where customers can call to report missing phones. It has also launched a website, with information about the scheme and what to do if your phone is lost or stolen.

The initiative kicked off in London yesterday, and will be rolled out to other mobile phone crime hotspots nationwide. A total of £2m will be spent on the scheme, which will include poster and point of sale advertising across the country, in an attempt to cut the number of phones stolen in the UK. Last year alone over 700,000 mobiles were reported stolen.

In tandem with the Immobilise Phone Crime campaign, the police will be cracking down harder on the criminals themselves, and those found to be reprogramming pilfered mobiles could now face a prison sentence of up to five years.