The government yesterday launched its campaign to target the ever-increasing threat of mobile phone theft, angering mobile operators with accusations they were not doing enough.

Home Office research, published today, shows mobile phone theft has increased by a massive 190 percent since 1995.

Mobile phones now account for 28 percent of all robberies, compared to just eight percent three years ago.

The government's report states that mobile operators have agreed to 'some' measures, but neglects to add they have failed to agree to others.

"The UK phone operators have already agreed to some early measures to test ways of putting phones out of action. They've also agreed to improve security as investment takes place in new systems," said Home Office minister John Denham.

But Vodafone and BT Cellnet, the two reactionaries in this argument, say the government's request for operators to cancel customers' accounts as soon as police handed over the International Mobile Equipment Identity number are "ridiculous".

"IMEI numbers are supposed to be individual, but they are duplicated," said a spokeswoman at BT Cellnet. "Only 10 percent of numbers are unique to each individual handset."

Vodafone agreed. "Without knowing the name of the account holder, several people's accounts cut be cut off unnecessarily," said a spokesman for the firm.

"It would cost £16m to introduce this technology," moaned BT Cellnet, "and while we would be willing to spend money on something that would solve the problem, barring IMEIs does not actually solve the problem."

"Even if an account is ended this does not prevent thieves from simply inserting a new SIM card, thereby providing the phone with a new number," agreed a Vodafone spokesman.

The report went on to reveal that 23 percent of thefts had occurred while people were actually using their phones and that 48 percent of all victims were under 18.

The Home Office advised that people should mark their phones with a postal address, avoid displaying the phone in public and remember where they are when they're using it.

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