A new database has been created to crack down on the selling of stolen gadgets.
Users of the CheckMEND system can find out whether the mobile phone, bicycle, laptop, digital camera or iPod they want to buy is stolen or not.
The system is linked to databases held by the police, mobile phone companies and insurers, and holds a hotlist of 3.8 million stolen items worth ?570m. Around a third of these are mobile phones. Another 100,000 items are added every month.
Checks can be carried out to see if a product is stolen by entering an IMEI (for mobiles), a serial number or other ID. The database can tell the user if the item is reported stolen and, in the case of mobile phones, whether it is barred in the UK or has been reprogrammed.
The data on the system is also used by police to make around 15,000 searches each month, of which around 20 per cent successfully locate information on the item.
All stolen phones reported to the UK mobile networks are on the database but information on other gadgets such as iPods or PDAs will only be found if the owner has previously recorded details such as serial numbers at the www.immobilise.com website.
Commander Steve Allen, head of the Violent Crime Directive at the Metropolitan Police, said he welcomed anything that made it harder for stolen property to be sold on. "We know that in at least half of street crimes mobile phones are stolen. It won't be a surprise that a key part of our strategy is about the disruption of the market for stolen goods," he said.
He added: "The fight against crime is not something that the police can do on their own."
A search on CheckMEND costs ?1.50 by text, plus network charges. An online search costs between ?1.00 and ?2.99 but users of this will receive a printable certificate of authenticity.
Most commonly stolen gadgets (in order of most first), according to CheckMEND database