Thefts of display unit laptops and iPhones are at the centre of a London crime spree, according to employees of O2 and Carphone Warehouse stores working in the capital.
The reports emerged after several staff told Mobile News that December and January had seen a spike in thefts of display unit hardware, something that O2 and Carphone Warehouse have played down.
Speaking to the trade paper, a spokesperson for Carphone Warehouse said: "Like all retailers that display live equipment in-store, we are targeted by thieves. But there is no evidence the number of iPhone thefts is higher than any of the other live demo products we range."
A spokesperson for O2 echoed that: "We have very strong security measures to protect iPhone demo stock. There have been isolated incidents but this represents a tiny proportion."
However, according to Mobile News, several staff from both retailers have told the paper of daily alerts from head offices about iPhone and laptop thefts. Carphone staff claimed that as many as 50 units are stolen each month from store displays across the capital, however, the retailer denied that the figures was anywhere near that high.
O2 staff claimed as many as 70 3G units had been stolen during December and January.
According to staff from both stores, retailers are being targeted by gangs of between two and nine people, who often employ distraction techniques including deliberately setting the alarms on other displays off while one or more work on the iPhones and laptops.
"There are gangs of people walking around stealing them. We can't do anything about it," one O2 staff told Mobile News. "Some stores get completely cleaned out in one swoop. No one seems to want to display them anymore because we'll be a target. It's serious."
It was echoed by Carphone Warehouse's staff. "There's nothing we can do about it. We can't stop them, and I personally wouldn't want to try," one member of staff commented. Another deputy manager added: "I have stopped putting my demo iPhones out and only bring one if a customer asks."