A covert police operation in London involving undercover officers flaunting brands of luxury wristwatches such as Rolex in the hope they would be targeted by criminals has helped cut luxury watch robberies by nearly half.
The sting operation sees undercover police officers loitering the capital’s most swish nightclubs and restaurants to lure would-be robbers while posing with timepieces worth tens of thousands of pounds.
When anyone attempted to steal the watches, they were arrested by hidden officers lying in wait as seen in the videos from the operations in Soho shown to reporters.
The operation helped to reduce annual watch robberies from 113 to 55 in the year to July 2023 in three central London boroughs: Westminster; Kensington and Chelsea; and Hammersmith and Fulham, police figures show.
In two operations over several months in 2022 and 2023, 27 people were arrested. Of these 21 were later convicted, according to figures provided at the briefing.
Ben Russell, the Met’s commander for intelligence, paid tribute to the courage of the undercover officers involved. He said: “This was a successful operation, primarily down to the bravery of our officers who volunteered to stand alone in dark streets in the middle of the night, waiting to be robbed.”
Watch robberies typically occur in fashionable neighbourhoods between 11pm and 4am on Fridays and Saturdays, the figures show. Thieves target luxury Swiss brands worn by the rich, according to Russell.
The operation came after several celebrities, including the boxer Amir Kahn and the singer and broadcaster Aled Jones, were robbed of their luxury watches.
Russell urged the public to weary of thieves and wear long sleeves to cover watches while walking on the street.