Mobile phone theft, blamed for the recent rise in street crime, is being targeted by the home secretary Jack Straw.

He has called for a meeting of mobile phone company executives and police in the next couple of weeks to look at ways of reducing the problem.

Around 15,000 phones are stolen each month and, in some areas, so called phone-jacking is reckoned to account for around a third of street crime.

Handsets are sold on to people wanting to change their phone without having to pay an upgrade fee. Popular models such as the Nokia 32 fetch around £40 while fancier models can reach £400.

Phone companies have hit back by putting SIM locks on mobiles to stop SIM cards being transferable to phones registered on other networks.

But EU law considers this to be anti-competitive and there are also internet sites which offer the technology to override SIM locks.

Phone companies said they could not speculate on whether this level of theft would lead to an increase in the cost of insuring mobiles.

Many cases of theft are by children from other children and it is likely that these phones are pay-as-you-go models and not necessarily insured.

Phone handsets have a unique identifying number that can be accessed by pressing *#06#.