The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper, serving Greater Manchester

Multiple thefts at Warehouse Project

Pickpocket gangs operate in WHP, target 18-21 year olds

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Police caught a man with over 40 stolen mobile phones on him outside the Warehouse Project.

Greater Manchester Police officers and event security seized 42 phones from Lulian Cojocaru in the early ours of Saturday Februry 2, after a night at the popular venue headlined by DJs Chase and Status.

“Hopefully this will send out a signal that the Warehouse Project is doing everything it can to combat this,” Director of the Warehouse Project Sacha Lord-Marchionne said.

Cojocaru, 28, from Dagenham, was charged with 25 counts of theft and was due to appear before Trafford Magistrates’ Court on February 4.

The theft is part of wider issue facing all large scale events added Mr Lord-Marchionne, with the arrest this month being the second time this academic year a man has been caught with a large number of stolen phones from the Warehouse Project.

He said, “Talk to any large-scale venue, whether it’s the MEN, the O2 Arena, or Fabric in London, everybody is suffering from organised crime where people are going in with the intention  of what I call ‘dipping’, which is stealing phones.

“We actually noticed a bit of a pattern starting to emerge when we moved to this new venue in September.

“Warehouse Project spent in excess of £46,000 during last season on undercover police, extra stewards, and extra security. And we pay for private policing at every event.

“Because of all these procedures and measure we put in place, this was actually our second catch of the season – we had caught another person prior to that, who again had 40 plus phones on him. It is a great result, and as far as I’m aware we are one of the only venues who actually have done this.”

The Mancunion spoke to fourth year French and Spanish student Sarah Yellowley, who had her phone stolen at the same ‘Metropolis’ event where Cojocaru was caught.

“I literally put my phone back in my bag and they must have seen me do it, because straight away I felt them take it, but I couldn’t do anything about it, they were gone,” she said. “They must have been ridiculously fast because they took three of my friends’ phones as well.

“I went straight to the cloakroom and told the staff it had happened, and they took down a description of the phone, but they couldn’t do anything really.

“I went to the police as well, and I heard from my friend that they had caught someone with 40 phones, so I told them the details of my phone and I had to go in to the police station and check if mine was there but it wasn’t.

“My phone was an HTC 1S, and it is actually really annoying because I found that HTC don’t make that phone anymore, so there is I can’t get the same one.”

Miss Yellowley added that she will still go to similar events, but will think twice before taking anything of any value.

“It hasn’t really put me off going again, because it always happens at these mass events, like at Pangea,” she said. “But I don’t know if I would even take a phone next time, but you kind of have to in case you lose your friends. I just don’t really want to take anything valuable, except money.”

In a statement last December the GMP said that Eastern European gangs were thought to be largely responsible for these phone thefts, which are part of a national increase in pick pocketing.

They also said the gangs look out for party-goers who use their phones openly and may be drunk.

Offenders then approach victims in busy areas and quickly pickpocket them, passing the phone to an accomplice immediately afterwards. Cases are removed to reduce the possibility of identification and the phones turned off so they cannot be traced.

According to a Students’ Union staff member there have been instances at Academy events when police outside the venue check peoples’ bags for stolen phones, after there have been a large number of phones reported stolen.

Mr Lord-Marchionne said he believes the thieves practice how to steal phones and are motivated by the high prices they can sell them for abroad.

“These people study how to do this, it’s an art to them,” he said. “This isn’t your local scally that’s going in to try and knick a phone. They are actually musically intelligent, they know which nights to choose, they know the demographic, and they know the music taste.

“So they are hitting the 18 to 21 market, where there tends to be the more boisterous crowd. It tends to be the urban nights, and low and behold, Friday was Chase and Status, which is obviously quite a moshy crowd. And it’s not a seated event, people are shoulder to shoulder. If you know what you’re doing it’s quite an easy thing to do.

“The reason they are doing this is because you can walk into a phone shop in Manchester today and take out a contract and get an iPhone free of charge, I believe. But in other countries you’re paying five, six, seven hundred pounds for one of these things, so it is very lucrative for organised crime.