An industry expert today speculated that the Apple iPhone will cause a jump in mobile phone thefts when it launches next week.

According to Jack Wraith, chair of mobile phone trade body the MICAF (Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum) the iPhone is 'iconic'.

"[It] will be one of those 'nice-to-have items'," said Wraith. "The industry, along with the police and the government, are concerned they will cause a peak in robberies."

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According to Home Office police statistics a whopping 800,000 people have their phones stolen in Britain each year. Fifty-two percent of all thefts involve a mobile, and in 28 percent of all robberies a phone is the only thing the scumbags nick.

Those are some pretty big numbers. But you do wonder what the point of it all is. After all, according to the MICAF every mobile handset reported stolen in the UK is blocked by its network provider within 24 hours. And 90 percent are barred from every UK network within 48 hours.

Well, according to the BBC at least stealing a phone can be a worthwhile exercise for thieves. There's plenty of technology to get around mobile phone security measures, you see, and other countries are not so sharp on blocking stolen phones.

"Increased security measures in the UK have resulted in the criminality being displaced," said Wraith. "Once the back-street dealer would have unblocked phones but now they just gather them and ship them abroad."

And anyway, thieves aren't all that clever. When iPhone-loving geeks start flaunting their new phone handsets, the jackdaw element is likely to be attractive to the shiny loveliness of Apple's gadget. And iPhone owners are unlikely to be impoverished oiks. Criminals might take their phones to stop them reporting larger thefts.

"Often a person is not targeted for their phone, taking it can be as simple as not wanting the victim to have the means to report the theft immediately," said Wraith.

"A huge number of stolen phones are not unblocked or sold on, they are just dumped."

Apple says it has improved iPhone security, and that Apple iPhones cannot be unlocked or unblocked. But let's face it, people will steal them.

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