UK Police lost 2,600 devices over the last three years, FOI reveals

The overwhelming majority of devices were lost from West Midlands Police

Police officers across the UK have had 2,600 devices lost or stolen over the past three years, according to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

Since 2016 there has been a 150% increase in reports of missing mobile phones, laptops, police radios and even encrypted USB pens. 1,360 gadgets were reported lost over the last year alone – some 4 devices every day.

The FOI request, issued by the Parliament Street Think Tank, also revealed that West Midlands Police reported the highest number of device losses, with 1,012 since 2016.

A breakdown of their loses showed 16 laptops, 112 mobile phones and 884 police radios in three years.

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The Staffordshire Police force came second by quite a margin, with only 277 lost over the three year period – just over a quarter of the devices lost by the West Midlands force. The Greater Manchester Police reported the third-highest numbers with 225 gadgets going missing, including 200 mobile devices and eight encrypted USB pens. However, 209 of those devices went missing over the past year.

UK Police Force2016-172017-182018-19Total
West Midlands1872226031,012
Staffordshire7293112277
Greater Manchester016209225
Lancashire686459191
Derbyshire205239111

"The reality is that the majority of these devices will contain sensitive data on police investigations as well as confidential information about criminals, suspects and victims," said Andy Harcup, VP EMEA for Absolute Software.

"Everyone recognises the loss of laptops and mobiles in the line of duty is inevitable, so it's vital that forces have the necessary systems in place to track and freeze equipment when it falls into the wrong hands. This approach can help improve cyber security standards, protect the privacy of individuals and prevent criminals and opportunistic thieves from misusing police devices and stealing data."

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