Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
2 FEBRUARY 2010
Q215 Chairman: Good morning. I would
refer everyone present to the Register of Members' Interests,
where the interests of all members of the Committee are registered.
This is an inquiry into crime prevention. We are looking at the
Government's initial phrase: "Tough on crime and tough on
the causes of crime," and we are assessing what the Government
has done in respect of crime prevention over the last 13 years.
Welcome to Sebastian Conran and Jack Wraith, both of whom are
involved in this area. We have looked at the intervention by the
state. Your role today is to give us evidence about other aspects
of crime prevention, specifically designing out crime, and we
are hopeful that you will give us particular examples of what
you have done to try and design out crime. I will start with a
question to both of you. Are there examples of areas where crime
can be designed out, therefore ensuring that the opportunity to
commit crime is not before those who wish to become criminals?
Mr Conran: Without a doubt. When
designing products and designing services and the way things work,
we can put in anticipatory features, with benefits and consequences,
at an early stage of their conception.
Q216 Chairman: Are the benchmarks
cost benefits? Are they linked to statistics or figures which
show there has been a reduction of crime in a particular area?
How do you know that what you are doing in designing out crime
Mr Conran: There will be evidence.
We are halfway through a process where we are analysing where
the problems are, gathering information, understanding what the
problems are, synthesising concepts for dealing with those problems
and then looking to implement them. We have some early examples
to demonstrate how this works, if you would be interested.
Q217 Chairman: Thank you. We will
certainly look at those examples as the session progresses.
Mr Wraith: To give you a comparison:
in the late 1990s we had handsets which contained security aspects
which could very easily be manipulated by just about anyone; today
we have handsets which make that manipulation, not impossible,
because of the way the unit is designed, but certainly a lot more
challenging technically. As you will see as we go on during the
morning, we have introduced a number of security measures within
the handset, based around something which is called the International
Mobile Equipment Identity number, or IMEI, and it is the IMEI
which gives the unit a unique identity. The UK have very much
led this particular initiative in getting both the handset manufacturers
and the GSM Association, both global organisations, to make the
IMEI as robust and as secure as possible, thus enabling us on
the backend of that to be able to do security types of activity
against those particular units.
Chairman: Thank you.
Q218 Martin Salter: In your view
where does the current risk lie in terms of products or services
that are most vulnerable to criminal exploitation? Is it credit
cards? Is it accessing details online? I have had my credit card
skimmed twice now: once as a result of a purchase online and once
as a result of a purchase at a garage. Is it copying, for example,
with innovative products immediately being sent across to China,
or wherever, to be copied and then flooded back into the market?
Which are the most vulnerable areas of which we should be most
Mr Conran: Identity theft is a
key area. About 800,000 phones a year are stolen, and 80% of users
carry personal information on them and 18% keep their bank details
on them as well. This highlights the focus on mobile phones. We
are looking at quite a few non-technical areas, like alcohol-related
crimes, and at fairly low-tech things, like designing safer kitchen
knives, and at setting standards of best practice in housing design
as well. The high-tech hot product area is an opportunity for
crime that we should anticipate, but it is just one of five streams
that we are looking at.
Mr Wraith: My answer would be:
all of the above. There will always be theft and there will always
be people who will target items which they can sell on or use
in an illegal way. It is very, very difficult to prevent that.
The position the industry has taken is to accept that will happen
and to see what we can do after that event to mitigate the impact
of someone losing the phone or someone losing the credit card.
Most of the procedures and the processes that we have put into
place are geared towards that. Education of the consumer is a
very important area which is often overlooked. We have seen consumers
change their attitude quite significantly over the years. The
current economic climate has seen a change in the way people treat
their personal possessions. They are more likely to take much
more care, consciously, of their mobile phone than they would
have done, say, five or six years back. There has been a change
in attitude since we have introduced the smart phone. As Sebastian
has indicated, there are phones now which are holding a lot of
personal details, and people are conscious of that. They are conscious
of the various adverts, the educational aspects of identity theft.
They have made them aware, and in fact sometimes have gone a little
too far and put them in fear. There is always this balance of
trying to educate people without making them too fearful of using
the product, and so getting the best out of the product as it
was designed to be.
Martin Salter: Thank you, Chairman.
Q219 Mrs Dean: Could you tell us
where the demand for designing out crime tends to come from? Is
it from the consumer or the manufacturer? Is it from police forces,
local authorities, or even the Government?
Mr Conran: In the case of business,
there is a bit of a paradox: if a product is stolen, there is
a displacement sale for the business. Although initially business
may seem to benefit inadvertently from a theft, the reality is
that, as the thief becomes more sophisticated, he will begin to
target business itself and so that will be self-defeating. Another
issue is that, as people become more aware of the benefits of
crime-resistant design, it will become a sales benefit and a feature
that people will look for, in the same way that maybe environmental
issues have now become features that people are conscious of and
for which there is a demand. There is probably a similar paradigm
to follow with designing out crime as has happened with the popularity
of environmental issues.
Mr Wraith: It comes from two main
areas. One is the consumers themselves, who are looking for an
article or an item or a product which they feel they can operate
in a safe environment. It also of course comes from the manufacturers,
who are looking for that niche market in order to get ahead of
the competition. We have seen a move within the market-place of
using safety as a marketing tool, where, again, if one goes back
ten or 15 years that was never the case. People would never mention
the safety; it would be at the back of the pamphlet, in annex
whatever. There is now much more encouragement to put that upfront
and to say what the security aspects of the item are. If one takes
the iPhone as an example, one can set the iPhone up so that if
it is illegally accessed a number of times it will automatically
wipe the information that is therein.
Q220 Mr Streeter: How do people go
about the process of designing out crime? Who do you speak to?
Obviously the police, consumers, expertsbut would you talk
us through the process.
Mr Conran: The methodology is
to identify the problem, either through historical statistics,
engaging with law enforcement. We have criminologists. Gloria
Laycockfrom whom you will be hearing later, I believehas
been identifying crime patterns and trends directly with Merseyside
Police, and this seems to have been successful. Also, by anticipating
social and technological changes, which are driven by cause and
effect, we seek to understand what opportunities there are for
the criminal, how the criminal will try to take advantage of these
trends, and the ramifications and the issues that arise from them.
Then we will seek to engage with experts, with professionals in
the field (for instance, communications technologists), and look
to develop robust solutions which are also convenient and usable
to the customer. We do not want fortress products; we want products
which are engaging and useful to use, which people will feel safer
with, as Jack was saying earlier. We seek to validate these through
testing and quantifying the results, and we then implement action
through establishing best practice and policy and inspiring businessboth
the manufacturers and, most importantly, the retailers, because
it is the retailers who will drive the manufacturers.
Mr Wraith: Over the years, we
have tried to listen to the consumer and take on board what the
consumer has been telling us with respect to design. This is in
all age groups. Over the years, we have held a number of workshops
with very young people and we have had some very good ideas in
that respect. We have held workshops with people who are directly
concerned with the security of the product and we have had feedback
in that respect. The challenge is feeding those ideas into the
manufacturing chain, because, inevitably, that is outside a national
focus. We have had a varying degree of success: what we have wanted
to be taken on board has not always been taken on board. That
is where market forces come into play. A global market-place,
when it comes to mobile phones, is very much where manufacturers
want their focus. If it is something which is UK -specific or
does not appear to have the attraction in a wider market-place,
then it is very difficult to get a manufacturer to take it on.
Q221 Gwyn Prosser: Mr Wraith, you
have told us this morning, in effect, that there will always be
theft and there will always be misbehaviour and perhaps the best
we can do is to reduce the impact of theft. Does that mean we
are never going to be keeping up with the game?
Mr Wraith: No, I think we are
keeping up with the game. The British Crime Survey of last year
would show that mobile phone robberies have maintained a very
low percentage, as for the previous year, despite a fairly significant
increase in the number of mobile phones which are in the market-place.
One has to be realistic: there will always be thefts. Whilst there
is that level of crime against the person, be it a burglary or
be it an individual, the robber is not going to leave a device
which will enable the person to alert the authorities of what
has occurred, so there will always be that theft. There will always
be theft with young people which has a lot more other social aspects
to it, in terms of bullying and the like. How do we mitigate that
beyond the point of it occurring? That is where the blocking of
handsets comes in. That is where the educational aspect for young
people comes in. Since 2003, year-on-year, we have had an annual
project in conjunction with the police and the Home Office to
educate young people within the school environment/within the
youth club environment of the dangers of mobile phones and how
to be more mature in the use of mobile phones.
Q222 Gwyn Prosser: Martin Salter
mentioned that he has twice had the details of his card cloned
or stolen. I have never had that experience, thank goodness, but
I once had my mobile phone snatched out of my hand in the high
street. In those daysand I speak as a lay personthere
was the feeling that, although I reported the theft immediately,
the Sim card or the phone itself could be used. There was then
a discussion, was there not, between the likes of yourselves and
the manufacturers to take on your recommendations for stricter
controls? If that were to happen today, what immediate benefit
would there be to the person who stole my phone?
Mr Wraith: If a phone is stolen,
once the network is informedand that is the key: the network
must be informedthe Sim card will be disabled almost immediately.
Under the agreement we have with the Home Office, that home network
has 24 hours to disable the handset on its own network and to
pass that information to the other networks for them to be able
to action it in the following 24 hours. I personally have the
responsibility of running an independent test each year against
those networks, to ensure that they meet the criteria which the
Home Office has laid down in what is called the Mobile Industry
Crime Action Forum Charter, which says that 80% of all phones
must be disabled within 24 hours on their home network and within
48 hours on the other networks. You might be thinking, and I would
not blame you, "Why does it take so long?" Quite simply,
it takes so long because the initial contact with the home network
will disable the account, and that is not a problem, but we must
then ensure that the IMEI, which we are now going to use in a
security function, is the correct one. In order to do that, we
must go back into the network to find out what unit was being
operated by that Sim card at the time of the reported theft or
loss. That may take some time, because the network might not feed
that information down to a terminal where it can be fed into for
four or five hours. We have to allow that to happen, and, once
that IMEI is identified, then the unit, the actual handset, is
disabled on the home network and it is that information which
is passed, in the case of the United Kingdom, to the other four
networks via a central platform which is operated globally by
the GSM Association. They will then use that information to populate
their own networks, so that within 48 hours that handset will
not work. We have found that the mere fact that that is in operation,
the knowledge that that is in operation, has cut down on a lot
of the types of handset sales that used to go on on a Friday night
in the pub or a Thursday night in the pub, because people know
that, yes, the phone might work if it has just been stolen outside,
but come Monday morning it will not work. We have had that impact.
We would like to improve on those times and we are under constant
pressure by the Home Office to do so.
Gwyn Prosser: Thank you very much.
Q223 Mr Winnick: Would it not be
a realistic viewpoint to take that the criminals will always try
to increase their game? They will find new ways. Criminal gangs
will certainly use all the intelligence that they havetoo
much on many occasionsto commit the sort of crimes we have
been talking about. It is a matter of trying to catch up with
them, and minimizing the harm which obviously they do, as well
as the tremendous amount of commercial loss involved.
Mr Wraith: Yes, the criminal will
always try to exploit whatever situation, and they are much, much
more flexible and have been much more flexible in the past than
some of the industries in their response. For example, since the
blocking database was introduced in 2003, we have seen a shift
in the way mobile phones are disposed of after they have been
stolen. We have seen the growing exportation from the UK of mobile
phones. This is because the blocking database that we operate
is a national database. It only operates within the UK, and the
criminal is well aware, as you quite rightly point out, that there
is a way of getting those phones out. That has led to a whole
set of processes that were not there four or five years ago. The
National Mobile Phone Crime Unit, a national police unit which
is given a responsibility by the Home Office to address these
aspects of mobile phone crime, has developed what is called the
Register, which checks the databases in a number of areas of mobile
handsets. The National Mobile Phone Crime Unit, in its processes
and procedures, has developed checking at points of exit such
as Dover, Heathrow, Manchester and the like, pulling passengers
who are departing from the UK out of the queue and searching their
baggage, and when their baggage has contained a whole handbag
full of mobile phonesthis is an actual examplethose
mobile phones have been able to be checked there and then against
the blocking database, the stolen equipment database and various
other databases, and a number of arrests have been made in that
respect. It is this constant change.
Q224 Mr Winnick: A constant battle.
Mr Wraith: Absolutely.
Q225 Chairman: I am a bit concerned
and I think the Committee is that crime prevention is not the
priority that it ought to be. If you buy a house after 1 January
the vendor has to provide you with an Energy Performance Certificate.
There is a huge concern about the environment, an important concern
about the environment. As far as business is concerned, should
there be more responsibilities put on business to ensure that
they have buildings that will prevent crime occurring? Should
there be much more of an onus placed on them by the Government
to make sure that this happens?
Mr Wraith: I believe that is an
unfair comparison. If one is buying a house, one is spending hundreds
of thousands of pounds. If one is buying a mobile phone, one might
only be spending £30 or £40.
Q226 Chairman: I am not talking about
mobile phones, but the cost to the taxpayer of crime runs into
billions, does it not?
Mr Wraith: Yes.
Q227 Chairman: Do we know what the
figure is? It runs into billions. Should we not be doing more?
Mobile phone crime is just one aspect.
Mr Wraith: The cost of the unit
and the competitiveness which there is in the global market-place
Q228 Chairman: But I am not talking
just about mobile phones. I am talking more generally here, away
from mobile phones to the general point that the cost of crime
is enormous. Should there be a greater onus on business to be
Mr Conran: As we heard the other
day, the cost of fraud against the Government is £17 billion
a year. That is not overall fraud; that is just the cost to government
and the taxpayer. Housing is a very good point. You have picked
up on a pet subject. In the HIPs report we had been working with
CABE on looking at exploring the design and layout of new housing
and housing developments to optimise safety and security. There
are issues of security: too much security can compromise fire
safety and exits and things like that. As I have said, we are
working with the Committee for Architecture and the Built Environment
to establish standards of best practice.
Q229 Chairman: Is there any research
that suggests that a burglar alarm in a house or in a business
is likely to deter somebody from breaking in? If you have a functioning
burglar alarm, is it more likely that people will not try to break
into your house? Is there any research that supports this?
Mr Conran: There is research.
I do not have access to it at this very moment.
Q230 Chairman: What does the research
Mr Conran: Without a doubt, that
having a functioning burglar alarm and one that is linked to the
police response system will reduce your likelihood of being burgled.
We have been lobbying to have a Home Security Assessment as part
of the HIPs Report. The resistance, rather unbelievably, has been
that if criminals come across this they will be able to access,
through estate agents, which houses are vulnerable, and so we
have to overcome that sort of resistance.
Q231 Chairman: You have some examples,
I understand, of simple measures that people can take in order
to reduce the level of crime.
Mr Wraith: Yes. I would like to
draw your attention to a number of things. First of all, I have
this particular pamphlet. When we started this campaign back in
2002/2003, the challenge was to educate the consumer.
Q232 Chairman: The leaflet will be
passed around. Are there other examples?
Mr Wraith: There is also this
item. When we started to educate the consumer on the importance
of the IMEI numberwhich is contained within the mobile
phone, normally underneath the battery and normally in very small
printwe provided this type of item, in order for them to
be able to magnify that number and read it off. It was another
process of education.
Q233 Chairman: This is publicity
Mr Wraith: It is publicity and
educational material. I will give them all to you.
Q234 Chairman: These are all leaflets,
but are there any examples you can give us?
Mr Conran: Perhaps I could put
a focus on violent crime. There are 87,000 violent incidents involving
glass each year. The cost to the NHS for dealing in hospital with
alcohol-related harm, including assault, is £2.7 billion
a year. One issue is that current beer glasses are used as a weapon.
Q235 Chairman: Those in pubs and
clubs, you mean?
Mr Conran: Yes, and bottles.
Q236 Chairman: You have one that
is already broken.
Mr Conran: We have one here which
is made of glass. It has been broken. It has an encapsulating
film, so that the shards are contained and there is less likelihood
of serious injury. We have been working on another one, which
works a bit like a car windscreen, which will break into very
Chairman: That is very helpful. It would
be very useful for us have a look at that glass. Mr Conran and
Mr Wraith, thank you very much for coming in to give evidence
to us this morning. It has been extremely helpful. If there are
any aspects of your evidence that you want to expand on, or any
further information you want to provide, please do so before the
inquiry is concluded.