A police blitz on West End robberies has been launched by the Met to stem a surge in muggings of shoppers and tourists in the heart of the capital.
Senior officers said it would include the deployment of “super-recognisers”, unmarked police “Q cars” and officers on mountain bikes alongside plain-clothes detectives and uniformed patrols to catch and deter criminals.
It follows a succession of crimes in which shoppers have had high-end watches, smartphones and even expensive clothes ripped from them by knife-carrying robbers.
Posters will also be put up around the area urging shoppers to remain vigilant with the message: “Don’t look at this poster. Look out for thieves instead”.
The “look out, look up” message will also be flashed up on smartphone adverts, broadcast on radio, and displayed on drinkmats.
It has been prompted by concern that shoppers are sometimes too distracted to notice they are being targeted before it is too late.
At the same time police are urging victims to ring 999 immediately to increase the chances of catching those responsible.
Police also warn that many of the criminals are part of organised gangs coming into the West End to target wealthy shoppers, although others are “opportunists”.
Another issue is a rise in “fake police” offences in which groups of tourists are targeted by criminals posing as plain-clothes officers to dupe them and steal their money as they get off coaches.
Met Chief Superintendent Helen Harper said that today’s new posters urging the public to look out for offenders was part of a concerted effort to stem the rise in offences.
“This is in no way trying to get the public to police for us, but it is trying to mobilise the public to help us,” she added.
Robberies rose by a third across the borough of Westminster during 2019 and the West End and St James’s wards have the largest number of offences of any in the capital.