NMPR: the database we ALL need to know more about #globalcrime #internationalcrime #mobilephones #mobiletech #IMEI

I am doggedly following up on a phone theft I suffered in Dublin a couple of weeks ago.  The problem has been trying to find the IMEI for the device.  The Garda felt, I think, and maybe rightly, there was little they could do if I could not supply this information.  They also seemed to imply if I didn’t have it, there was no one else who could.

The phone had been bought from Amazon on 21st July this year, and I assumed the company would have the IMEI and could give it to me.  Around six customer service agents didn’t even know what I was asking for; the seventh, in a technical support department for MP3 issues, did know, and finally discovered, after much digging around, that the field where the IMEI for my phone should have been recorded was blank.  An initial enquiry to Cheshire police revealed this would be a matter for internal business procedures: it is not a legal requirement for phone vendors to record and communicate to the authorities who owns what in the field of mobile technology.  At least not in England, anyway.

Keeping in mind the bad a mobile phone can be used for, I find this an astonishingly fragile state of affairs, but I am not a legislator, nor a lobbyist in the field of international commerce.

Last night, however, I spoke to a very helpful general-enquiry call handler – also at Cheshire Constabulary.  Together we kind of agreed there must, and does, exist a police database with my name and my stolen phone’s IMEI – if, that is, Amazon communicated it to the police, as they assure its website users they always do on any phone sold.  

The database is called NMPR, and can only be accessed by the police for the police.  

I am in Dublin at the moment, and will be going to the Garda this morning to chase up why the crime incident ID for the stolen phone was never communicated to me: a follow-up which had been promised me on reporting the original theft.  Then I will inform them of this UK-wide police database, and assure them all they need to do – for the Cheshire police did say I couldn’t obtain the information myself, even on my own behalf – is contact NMPR with my details, the details of the sale, the phone’s make and model … and hopefully, Bob’s your uncle – the mystery will be cleared up, and I will soon find myself able to move onto the next challenge life decides to hurtle my way …

One final thought: if the law as it has been explained to me is actually the case – no one who sells mobile phones, in England at least, need keep a record of what IMEI belongs to which customer – and if in the particular case of Amazon it does not reliably keep the information on file (still to be established in more than my case, for one-off it could always be) surely the advice its customers must be given is not that the company automatically informs the police of this information but, rather, that it should be the customers who ensure – on purchase from Amazon – that they tell their phone providers.  For both EE and Vodafone – the companies I have phone contracts with – were more than happy to record the IMEIs of other phones I am responsible for, even though purchased from Carphone Warehouse.  And Carphone themselves were more than happy to show me in-store where the IMEIs of my purchases, which include devices sold by them and bundled with contracts supplied from EE and Vodafone, were duly kept on their databases.

It’s a weird story, ain’t it?  A weird story indeed.

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