Fans have called for action and awareness after a While She Sleeps show at The Roundhouse in London last week saw over 50 phones stolen from fans.
During the show at the Camden venue on Friday March 1, frontman Lawrence Taylor told fans to be careful and check their pockets after being alerted of mobile thefts by security – at which point a large amount of the crowd were shocked to find that they had been pick-pocketed.
“I was annoyed and angry at myself for letting this happen and it just ruined the whole gig for me,” 23-year-old property manager Conor Burke from Peterborough told NME after falling victim to theft at the show. “A lot of fans who also had their phones stolen at the gig where angry. While She Sleeps have a very close relationship with their fans.”
He continued: “The venue did the best they could, but they just couldn’t handle the amount of people reporting their phones had been stolen. All they could do was take our details and ask us to fill out these forms.”
Asked about what action he’d like to see taken, Burke replied: “The venue seem to be aware that this happens often. I would think that with this amount of people reporting their phones stolen they would have searched people on the way out. You get searched and patted down on your way in, so why can they not do this on the way out?”
Meanwhile, While She Sleeps fan George Bowman was at the gig and claims to have seen the thieves in action – but had a novel solution to avoid being a victim himself.
“I saw a guy doing it,” the 22-year-old IT graduate from Eastbourne told NME. “I have this sort of bungee cord that’s attached to my phone and clipped to my belt. The guy grabbed my phone twice, but didn’t manage to get it. I got it at Download Festival a couple of years ago when the police were handing them out and it’s been with me at every gig since. It’s a godsend.”
Having seen this happen at gigs before, Bowman has learned to spot the tell-tale signs of phone thieves in action.
“They’re normally in the pit, but don’t look like they should be,” he said. “They’re not singing along, not looking at the band, they’re looking down a lot. At the While She Sleeps gig, I knew what was happening straight away. The first thing you see is people looking down on the floor because they think they’ve just dropped their phones.
“These guys work in gangs. They pinch a couple of phones then take them to a guy at the back, then go back in the pit. This one guy tried for my phone again and then a couple of people of front of me. The band had already said to the crowd, ‘Stop trying to steal phones’. I crowdsurfed out and went to tell security what was happening. There were already 30 people out there registering that their phones had been stolen.”
He continued: “Some people only go to a couple of gigs a year. This sort of thing just ruins their night and puts them off going again. Live music is the best thing ever, and I hate seeing this happen.
“The security were good on the night and really pissed off – but it’s impossible to search everyone on the way out. People just need educating on how to avoid this.”
In a statement to NME regarding the incident, a Roundhouse spokesperson said: “Unfortunately phone thieves targeted the gig at the Roundhouse, which affected around 50 people. As soon as reports of the thefts were made to security, the Roundhouse reported it to the police and the band were asked to make an announcement from the stage to warn the audience.
“The safety and security of our audiences is always of paramount importance to us and we would advise anyone affected on Friday to report their phone stolen if they have not already done so.”
A spokesman for London Metropolitan Police added: “We have received 14 individual reports from people who stated that their mobile phones had been stolen either inside or outside a concert venue.”
NME has contacted While She Sleeps for comment.
Back in 2017, a man was jailed for wearing a swimsuit to steal 53 mobile phones from fans at a Royal Blood gig in Birmingham.
Speaking at the time, a police spokesperson said: “It’s an unfortunately reality that large crowds at concerts can make rich pickings for career criminals.
“We’re on to these offenders but you can also reduce your chances of falling victim to such crimes by remaining extra vigilant; look out fort suspicious behaviour and only take the valuables with you that you really need.”