Police have uncovered a trans-Atlantic trade in stolen mobile phones between the West Midlands and Canada.
An officer from Ontario contacted city police about the racket – after reading a story in the Birmingham Post’s sister paper the Birmingham Mail – about a taskforce set up to fight the rise in robberies by targeting thieves taking expensive mobile phones.
The Mail told how police had arrested a man and seized 50 phones from a market stall in the city centre after checks suggested some were linked to reports of robberies over the past two months.
Det Insp Mark Rushton said he was then contacted by the Canadian officer who had carried out a similar style raid on a flea market and seized a number of phones.
Checks on a new national stolen phone database have now indicated that a number of the phones seized there had been reported stolen in the West Midlands.
Police believe they had been sold to second hand dealers in North America via the internet.
Det Insp Rushton, who heads the West Midlands Mobile Phone Crime Unit, said: “We didn’t think phones stolen here would end up somewhere like Canada. It was always thought they would go to Europe, Africa or Pakistan.
“What this has done, is given us links now to see who is selling the stolen phones here.
“People might think that, if they are selling phones and sending them halfway around the world, they will never be traced.
“But what this has shown is that we are able to work internationally to target those who think they can sell stolen phones abroad.”
Police said by cracking down on those dealing in stolen phones and blocking handsets they aimed to make them a worthless commodity to thieves and reduce attacks.
The team is using a new nationwide Mobile Phone Register which holds details of stolen and lost mobiles that allows police officers to quickly identify them.