Dial M for mobile

In a similar scheme to one successfully adopted by the Dutch police recently, thieves will be sent a text message which will say something like: 'This device is stolen. Purchase or sale is an offence. The Metropolitan Police.'

The same SMS message is then sent every three minutes, presumably until the thief dumps the phone.

"Once the scheme is in full circulation and people become aware of it, we hope it will deter people from stealing phones, as thieves know they will become the recipient of annoying and continual text messages," said a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police.

But apart from encouraging thieves to dispose of stolen phones, the scheme seems to offer little deterrence from the act of stealing.

"Any scheme which cuts down on mobile phone theft is welcomed by us," said a spokesperson at handset maker Nokia. "But this may simply encourage people to throw stolen phones away."

Police will be testing the scheme from this week on all handsets reported stolen.

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