Readers' experiences of being mugged
- 16 July 2012
- From the section Magazine
A Magazine article on mugging generated a large response from readers.
The feature, written by the BBC's Home Affairs correspondent Tom Symonds, recounted his experience of being mugged at knifepoint - and what it was like to see the police and criminal justice system at work.
A second Magazine feature asked, as anti-theft technology increases, will we ever reach the point where things become unstealable?
Here, readers share their stories about being mugged and their experiences of how the police dealt with modern technology and things like GPS information.
It must be about 10 years ago, I was using an ATM one evening, and felt an arm go around my back. I turned, and a guy in a hoodie who'd snuck up behind me dropped an open Stanley knife on the ground. I guess he only meant to cut the strap of the shoulder bag I carried and run off with it. I ran to my car, locked myself in and drove away - feeling extremely shaken. That's the thing about it. If I'd lost my bag, no real matter - insurance, the bank, would have dealt with anything. It's the sense of personal danger that these incidents engender.
It's fantastic to hear technology can sometimes overcome crime but that's unfortunately not always the case. The Met police weren't at all interested in the 2.5gb of photos, location data and a huge amount of other information my stolen £2,400 Mac Book Pro delivered back to me through a tracking app over a three-month period, after an assault and the robbery of it and two debit cards in late October 2011.
It actually got to the point where I felt I was harassing the police just by asking for updates. Now the officer in charge of the case doesn't even respond to emails and as I guess far as he's concerned, I've given up. Sadly not. The two debit cards were subjected to fraudulent use of around £7,000 (I have tracking evidence linking the card transactions to the person using the laptop between the above dates) but even so, the overwhelming impression I got from the police all along was "not listening, this is too small, go away, can't be bothered".
Needless to say I've given up on that route and I'm looking to the IPCC to resolve the catastrophic police failures against such a huge quantity of highly incriminating data and most likely to the web/media about what to do with all these mugshots, screenshots, maps and records that I'm sitting on of the thief's online habits. One way or another, he's not getting away with it.
Two months ago a director of the business I work for had his car broken into while stopping at the shops on the way home. His bag, his laptop and iPad were stolen. He called me and I traced online the journey of the stolen items using the Find My iPhone app and then, once the items had settled to a fixed location, I used Google Streetview to provide a road name and house number to both him and the police. He went to the house and waited outside, but the police refused to turn up based on GPS evidence not being sufficient evidence.
They did turn up the next day at his home to give him a comforting "interview" of the night's events. Any gains that technology provides to justice are for me offset by our continuing support of imbalanced rights for the victim and the criminal. It's either that or lazy policing, or cutbacks in policing. Or all three.
David, Vale of Glamorgan
My daughter had her iPhone stolen at a bar in Cardiff - we contacted the police and told them of its location using the technology in your report.
The police would not go to the house in question as they stated that GPS isn't that accurate. I asked them to look at their database of people in the adjacent houses as I suspect the thief had prior experience, they mentioned the human rights of the person that prevented them from calling at a house to question the occupant about the phone.
I found the police to be a waste of time, especially as they ignored the information provided by the technology. We therefore never recovered the phone and the thief is free to continue.
A bit different from my experience a couple of years ago when my purse was stolen from my handbag whilst getting off the bus at King's Cross. British Transport police couldn't have been more helpful, but the PC from Scotland Yard who rang the next day went to great lengths to insist that it would be recorded as a "loss" rather than a "theft" as I hadn't seen it happen so that their clear-up rate didn't get hit.
My son, 27, was robbed in central London around midnight last summer as he made his way back from a party to his hotel, by a group of six men that demanded that he hand over his wallet. A tourist who witnessed the robbery called the police, who arrived within moments. They were a special task force set up to deal with street robberies. The police drove him around to look for the group. They made an arrest and eventually one of the group was convicted of an offence.
The police were everything you would want them to be - calm, helpful, proactive - and over the following months the officer dealing with the case kept my son informed of developments until after the court case when the evidence, a wallet, could be returned. We were very impressed.
Hayley, Billericay, Essex
My iPhone has been stolen twice. I was left with a bill (the first time around) of about £800 of international calls and £450 to replace the handset. The second time around a bill of £20 was run up also to international numbers.
Both phones had been installed with a GPS tracking devices which could be used in such a event. When I contacted the police they couldn't have been less interested, and were not keen to find the device via GPS. I found this very frustrating as I knew this was a process that would take the police minutes - if they wanted. Unfortunately I didn't have as helpful officers as this.
I was mugged in Aston after a Villa game. A young man approached me from the darkness and asked me the time. I said I didn't know, and then he threatened me with violence if I didn't give him my phone. I could have run, however on the corner of the road I could see two more hooded men, and assuming they were his mates, I handed over my phone.
I stupidly first called Orange to get my contract SIM card locked, but by doing this I blocked the phone data so I could not track the phone on HTC Sense (who my phone was with). Police had no luck finding the man after a half hour area search after I reported the theft at a local police station. A message to people - do not block the phone with your provider as it will block you from tracing the phone online.
I had my iPhone stolen in central London last year. The next morning the phone must have been switched on because I received an email from Find my iPhone. The app had located the phone to a specific house in Southgate, London, providing a satellite picture of its location.
The police refused to do anything, even though I was given the impression that the police were familiar with the address. I was told my only option was to go round to the house and sort it out myself (words to that effect). This sort of technology is not much help if the police cannot or will not use it.
My computer was stolen (along with many other items) when our house was burgled. I was able that same evening - through Find my Mac and a couple of other pieces of software - to give the police a street address for my computer, the IP address it was being used at and even the thief's nickname (he had renamed the machine in his honour).
After weeks dragged into months of inactivity, I was disappointed to receive a call from a policeman from the so-called "priority crimes unit" since "such a long period of time had now elapsed", there was probably not much point them acting on the information. He was therefore calling to let me know he was closing the case and that he hoped I understood. So clearly these new techniques have not quite reached all members of the police.
I managed to track my phone using the Find my iPhone and information gained from the gym in which it was taken last year, eventually contacting an individual on Facebook. The criminal tried to sell my phone over his public Facebook page.
I contacted the police and was able to give them the name and address of the person who had my phone, and proof that they were attempting to sell the item on Facebook. It got stolen on Thursday and was back in my possession on Sunday. I encourage everyone to enable this feature and become familiar with how to track your belongings, so that you might get lucky like me and get your items back like I did.
John Bengue, London
I've just been through, nearly word for word, the same experience. The advice from friends and family, some of them in the military, was not to volunteer as a witness and let the matter drift away. I choose to give evidence and at the last minutes of the court case the three defendants pleaded guilty which was a good decision for all concerned.
I think I will take part in a process whereby I meet the offenders so that they realise it is not a faceless crime and that I could have been their dad, brother, friend. All in all a scary experience, and my attack did not involve knives so I can only imagine how it must have felt.
Frankly, this story leaves me astonished. When I was assaulted by a gang of about 20 youths in broad daylight while on my way home from work one evening, the police came round to my flat, gave me a crime number, then did absolutely nothing, even though I told them I'd be more than happy to give evidence.
I had a similar experience - got home, girlfriend saw someone in our garden, shouted back to me, he legged it and I gave chase. Luckily, flagged down a police car and we all hared off after him. We ran him to ground, and dozens of officers arrived within minutes - 20 minutes later he was in cuffs.
I was cynical about the Met, both in terms of how fit they are, and how racist they might be. Well, I was wrong. The officers I dealt with were terrific. Let's see if our man caves and and pleads guilty at the last moment, like yours.
I was the victim of a burglary in which my bike was stolen... four months later it's appeared on gumtree.com yet the police simply can't do anything due to being understaffed. I am literally faced with the prospect of taking law into my own hands or letting the bike slip through the net thanks to poor staffing.
My brother was murdered in a knife mugging in Birmingham City Centre in 2005. It had a devastating impact on my family, and continues to do so to this day. The crime was committed by three teenagers, who were given pathetically short sentences - some of them are already free and walking the streets due to the ludicrous way in which the CPS run an informal "plea bargaining" system.
Regarding Tom Symond's comments about the Winsor review, I think he is probably correct. However, people must recognise that a police officer's job is becoming more and more desk based, so it isn't surprising fitness is being degraded. As a result of my the loss of my brother I'm now a Special Constable trying to help others who are vulnerable and in need of assistance, and hope to become a Regular Constable in the near future.
I was mugged by two men at knifepoint in Birmingham city centre in May 2010 as I walked from my office to the train station in broad daylight.
I managed to stop a passerby and used their phone to call the police who arrived shortly afterwards. We drove about in the police car looking for my attackers but found nothing. All CCTV cameras caught was the back of their heads a few moments prior to the mugging (they knew where the cameras were) and there were no other leads. The two men have never been brought to justice.
The attack has had a lasting effect on me - I still struggle with being in Birmingham city centre, have a fear of being followed and of anyone wearing a hoodie or looking at me in a certain way. My almost empty bag (minus laptop, iPhone, cash) was found months later in some bushes about half mile from where I was attacked and yet no finger prints were taken of the bag or its contents. I was not informed that it had been found for weeks (and only because a lady found it under her desk).
The bag was stolen from me in one police jurisdiction and found in another - perhaps the reason for poor communication, a lack of joined up thinking and disregard for me as a victim of crime. I feel disappointed that the perpetrators weren't brought to justice and worry that one day I will walk down the street and see the same two men.
Rather annoyingly I had my Kindle stolen from my bag on a train three months ago - as I sat next to it. I phoned Amazon to remove the link between the device and my credit card - and Amazon were able to tell me the name of the person who'd re-registered the Kindle by using the unique identifier. Amazon told me they could pass on his address to the police if they received a formal request from them. I reported the theft and passed on this information - but nothing was done and I eventually asked Amazon to deactivate the device entirely. Very frustrating.