“Nowadays people are phone zombies. They are on their phone walking along the street, bumping into people, not knowing where they are going.” VIDEO: This CCTV shows the moment a prolific moped gang try to steal @George_Osborne ‘s mobile phone near the BBC in central London pic.twitter.com/UTcQnFRK9X— Nick Beake (@Beaking_News) October 11, 2017 He has said moped thieving is the “crime of the moment”, because it is so easy and lucrative to do. The value of the stolen device goes up even more if stolen while being used, as it does not then have to be unlocked and can be wiped and sold as a new phone.The Metropolitan Police force has also warned about pedestrians being caught unawares by phone-snatchers while they look at or talk on their tablets or mobiles.Superintendent Mark Payne told The Telegraph: “These offenders rely on the unwariness of the public to snatch their phones while they make calls so it is so important that the public is aware of their surroundings at all times and protect their personal property, particularly when emerging from a train or underground station or anywhere where they might suddenly decide to take out and use their phone. “Smartphones and IPads are very valuable to these criminals and they can snatch them in an instant.”Other hotspots include Regent Street, which saw the number of thefts jump from 3 to 91 between 2015 and 2017, and Bond Street, which went from 1 to 14. A rise in moped theft on London’s streets has been partially blamed on “phone zombies” – people who look at their phones while walking. Oxford Street is full of rich pickings for moped thieves, who sit two to a bike as one drives and the other snatches phones from the hands of those talking on or gazing at them. The crowds mean it is easy for a moped driver to escape the scene of the crime, and many distracted shoppers have their mobile telephones out in the street.Police say each device snatched can be sold for around £200, and some thieves manage to take dozens a day out of the hands of pedestrians.Thefts there have rocketed by 2100pc in two years; there were 291 offences in 2016 – up from 13 in 2014-15.Dr Simon Harding, associate professor of criminology at the University of West London, told the BBC that “phone zombies” help fuel the crime: “If you look at mobile phones five years ago, they were pretty much in our pockets unless we got a phone call. This problem has become so prolific that the force has had to put special measures in place to clamp down on the crime, including remote-controlled spikes which punch holes in the tyres of mopeds used by suspects.The force has also developed forensic tagging sprays and purpose built, lightweight motorbikes that help support policing these offences.Superintendent Payne said: “Due to the rise in offending in and around Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, Westminster borough police have been carrying out intensive operations, and patrols around hotspot areas to target those responsible for snatch, theft of motor vehicle, and smash and grab offences.”Many Londoners have been hit by the crime, including former Chancellor George Osborne, who according to a statement he gave felt “shocked and stunned” after a moped thief mounted the pavement in a futile attempt to snatch his mobile phone. Upper Street, Kings Road and Marylebone High Street are also popular target areas for moped thieves. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.