Police slap down 'ridiculous' suggestion for Londoners to hide valuables amid surge in violent street robberies

30 August 2022, 14:00

Police are dealing with a rise in violent robberies in London
Police are dealing with a rise in violent robberies in London. Picture: Social Media

By Emma Soteriou

Police have slapped down suggestions for Londoners to conceal their valuables while out and about as 'ridiculous' amid a surge in violent thefts on the capital's streets.

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Detective Inspector Treasa O'Donoghue, who oversees the Met's Scorpion team - a highly specialised unit targeting criminals using mopeds to commit robberies - told LBC attacks plaguing the capital are "absolutely sickening" but insisted that Londoners should not put their day-to-day lives on pause and instead be "extra vigilant".

Ms O'Donoghue said: "If you're wearing that type of watch [a Rolex] and it does stand out I just ask people to be extra vigilant.

"I'm not here to say or dictate to anybody 'don't wear your watches, hide them away'…that's just ridiculous.

"It's up to you as an individual - all we're asking is to be more aware of where you are and who's around.

"It's the campaign that's been going on for a while now: look up, look out.

"Nobody should have to hide their watch when they go out."

She also said her team are ‘struggling’ as criminals have switched tactics to use e-scooters as getaway vehicles because they know officers are less likely to use the controversial tactic of knocking them off the vehicle due to the increased risk.

"When we see things like the robberies with a hammer it’s sickening, it’s absolutely sickening," she added.

Read more: 'We have a real problem with moped attacks,' Chelsea MP says as Londoner attacked with machete for watch

Read more: Watch robbery victim urges others to be vigilant amid high value timepiece crime wave

Her comments come after footage shared online showed two violent watch thefts take place in broad daylight across the capital.

One clip showed two moped thieves smashing in the window of a Bugatti Chiron with a hammer in a bid to steal the owner's watch.

The man on a motorcycle - who was dressed in Deliveroo uniform - made the move while stopping in traffic while another man could be seen closing in from the other side of the car.

Meanwhile, a woman was held at knife point while thieves were believed to be targeting her watch.

She could be heard screaming as the attack unfolded, with a man also getting caught up in the brawl.

A witness told MailOnline that they told their teenage children to record the attack on their phones while she called the police.

She said: "You feel so helpless, but what else can you do? It was terrifying to see this happening in the street where I've lived for 14 years.

"My son and daughter went down to help the couple with some water and the woman sat in my car while we waited for the police. It took them about 25 minutes to arrive."

There was also an increase in violence at Notting Hill Carnival over the weekend, with 21-year-old Bristol drill rapper TKorStretch being stabbed to death during the event.

Overall, police said 209 arrests had been made by early Tuesday, including 46 for assault, 36 for possession of drugs, 33 for possession of an offensive weapon, 27 public order offences and eight sexual assaults.

One thief approached a man's car while it stopped at traffic lights.
One thief approached a man's car while it stopped at traffic lights. Picture: Instagram/watch_crime_ldn

The spike in watch thefts in the capital - which Ms O'Donoghue has said is seasonal due to valuables being on display more openly - have left many Londoners worried about being in the city.

One man previously told LBC's Charlotte Lynch: "It's quite shocking to see that [person] walking and just these guys come along on mopeds.

"My wife is quite worried about it as well - she shows me the videos sometimes."

However, Ms O'Donoghue insisted that officers were determined to find those responsible and always keeping track on what was going on.

"There is a lot of work going on by the police," she said.

"I know some of the comments have been that we don’t see police but we're definitely in the area - we know where the hotspots are, we know where people are targeting, we monitor it on a daily basis and we are definitely around.

"We may not be visible but there’s a lot of plain clothes work going on around that."

One woman was held at knife point for her watch
One woman was held at knife point for her watch. Picture: Instagram/watch_crime_ldn

She added that extreme cases of people being threatened with knives, hammers - or even machetes - were rare.

The detective urged those who have been caught up in thefts to get in contact immediately so that her teams could respond while the attackers were still in the area.

"If we get a phone call five or 10 minutes later, they've often moved on to a different patch so we're always following them and always on the catch up.

"If we get that phone call straight away, they can't get far. They're two or three minutes away."

There have been 621 watch robberies in the Met this calendar year (to 14 July), with 32 per cent taking place in Chelsea/Belgravia and the West End. 

Across Westminster, Kensington, Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, there were 42 watch robberies between 26 April and 30 May.

In the following four weeks (31 May to 27 June), there were 67 offences, an increase of more than 60 per cent.

Tom Swarbrick: Watch robberies are on the rise in London

Combatting the growing attacks is the specially trained Scorpion unit - within Operation Venice - which sees officers go around in marked police vehicles and targeting mopeds.

Ms O'Donoghue said attackers were becoming more aware of the 'tactical contact' techniques officers were using to knock their vehicles down and so were finding new ways to attack people in the busy streets of London.

"With any type of crime, it's an evolution," she said.

"They know now we can hit the mopeds - that we can have tactical contact – so they go to the next bit of technology.

"E-scooters, e-bikes, Sur-Rons… we're seeing a real increase in those around London because we struggle with those.

"The risk posed to them will be higher than on a moped because a moped is more sturdy and it’s a bigger machine – it's down to the officers – they look at it, risk asses it and if they can they will, but they're completely different machines almost so they've got to be very conscious."