Source: The Telegraph
Knife-wielding moped robbers are exploiting the longer days and busier streets to target West End shoppers in a crimewave that has seen hundreds of designer watches stolen this year, police have warned.
There were 621 watch robberies in the capital between the start of the year and July 14, 32 percent of which took place in the well-heeled neighborhoods of Chelsea and Belgravia or the West End.
Shocking footage emerged this week of a man and a woman having their watches violently snatched in broad daylight in Chelsea, west London, by a masked gang armed with knives.
The attack, filmed by an onlooker on Monday, shows the woman lying in a doorway trying to fend off one balaclava-clad man, while another is repeatedly punching her male companion in the face.
Just a day earlier, near Hyde Park Corner, a thief on a moped disguised as a Deliveroo driver was filmed smashing the window of a £3 million Bugatti hypercar with a hammer and stealing the driver’s rare Rolex.
Watch thieves out in London ( Mayfair) today two Thieves on mopeds one using hammer trying to take a man watch as is sit Bugatti chiron car..— London & UK Street News (@CrimeLdn) August 21, 2022
Cc watch_crime_ldn pic.twitter.com/2r5LZd841h
The £110,000 watch belonged to Abdullah F. Al Basman, the Kuwaiti millionaire, who is seen in viral footage of the attack being helped out of his smashed vehicle.
Thieves have been known to lurk outside luxury hotels to swoop on wealthy guests carrying valuables and it is believed Mr Al Basman had been similarly tailed after leaving The Berkeley Hotel, where he had been staying.
Other recent victims include a couple who had their Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe watches, worth up to £210,000, stolen by a moped rider with a machete in a Chelsea conservation area, as well as a two people targeted separately in the space of just an hour in Chelsea on July 4.
There were 621 watch robberies in the capital between the start of the year and July 14, the Metropolitan Police said, 32 percent of which took place in the well-heeled neighborhoods of Chelsea and Belgravia or the West End.
The problem appears to be spiraling. There was a 60 percent spike in the number of watch thefts committed across Westminster, Kensington, Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham between May and June, compared to April and May, according to the force.
Det Ch Supt Owain Richards, who is in charge of policing across the five west London boroughs which constitute the central-west borough command unit, on Wednesday told The Telegraph: “We have seen a rise in these types of robberies over recent weeks as criminals take advantage of the longer days and the busier streets. We know similar increases have occurred in other areas of the city.
“We want people living in and visiting London to enjoy our city safely – no one should have to go about their day in fear of thieves.
“We know the impact these crimes have on each and every victim and that is why we have extra officers in place in locations where these crimes are most common. This includes those from specialist units, like our Operation Venice teams.
“We are also reminding people to remain aware of their surroundings and where possible, keep valuables out of sight.”
The Met’s long-running Operation Venice seeks to tackle crime carried out by criminals riding motorbikes and mopeds - traditionally the favored form of getaway for robbers - or electric bikes, which are increasingly being used too.
Tactics deployed by specialist units include the use of a police vehicle to ram the fleeing thieves off their bikes.
A greater number of high-visibility police patrols have been promised in hotspot areas like the West End, along with the deployment of plain-clothed police officers.
In a call for public vigilance, the force said the first few hours of investigations are “key” to catching the criminals and anyone who witnesses - or falls victim to - a robbery should immediately ring 999.
The public is also advised to stay aware of their surroundings and who is nearby, to keep valuables, including watches, concealed, and to plan their route home.