Cheers as members of the public step in to catch ‘watch thief’ by pinning him to a chair outside John Lewis in Sloane Square – amid growing fury over police failure to investigate petty crime
- HAVE YOU WITNESSED SHOPLIFTING IN BRITAIN? Tell us about your experience and send your pictures and video: Email [email protected]
Shoppers were forced to step in and catch a suspected ‘watch thief’ themselves amid growing fury at police failing to tackle everyday crime blighting Britain’s streets.
Shocking video footage in London‘s upmarket Sloane Square yesterday showed the moment the have-a-go heroes caught the man, who was believed to have snatched a timepiece from the arm of a passerby.
But there was no sign of any police until the suspect had been already held by the public-spirited passersby. And by the time an officer was finally seen lumbering over to the ‘crimescene’, onlookers let out a sarcastic cheer as he was led away.
It is the latest shame in a growing number of incidents up and down the country, where police failure to crack down on crime has seen retail chiefs accusing them of allowing lawlessness to thrive.
Confidence in the force – after a series of devastating scandals – is also at a huge low, with London’s Met bearing the brunt of criticism after criminals were exposed in its own ranks like Wayne Couzens, the killer of Sarah Everard.
On Monday, ASDA chairman Lord Stuart Rose said theft had effectively been ‘decriminalised’ due to a lack of police action. It was a devastating intervention, given a report just last year had already urged officers to do more to win back public trust.
HAVE YOU WITNESSED SHOPLIFTING ON BRITAIN’S HIGH STREETS? Tell us about your experience and send your pictures and video: Email [email protected]
In September 2022 police were told by a chief constable to spend more time catching criminals than involving themselves in ‘spats on Twitter’ and attempts at ‘inclusion’ like dancing on duty.
Andy Marsh, who had been head of the College of Policing since September 2021, said forces should prioritise reversing exceptionally low rates of solving crimes.
Home Office figures revealed forces were solving the lowest proportion of crimes ever, with only 6 per cent of all crimes resulting in a charge in the year to September 2021.
Mr Marsh had said: ‘What so irritates the public when they see videos of officers on duty dancing is that they don’t see an expression of inclusion, they see an officer who has closed their burglary case with no further action – without even visiting the scene – stepping over the line from respectful and polite policing of an event, into frivolity.’
In this latest example posted to social media, two men can be seen pinning the alleged thief to a chair outside John Lewis in the west London shopping district as they wait patiently for authorities to intervene.
When officers turned up after members of the public were forced to hold the fort, the man is put in handcuffs and led to a waiting police car. It is not known whether the officers were called or simply happened to be passing.
There have been rallying cries by supermarket chiefs for the Government to step in and help supermarkets to better protect staff from abuse.
John Lewis, Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Boots are now issuing staff bodycams and training to deter violence from aggressive thieves while at Dunelm, duvets and pillowcases were locked up in PIN-code-protected cabinets.
On shoplifting and the abuse of staff, Lord Rose blamed complacent authorities which he said have ‘allowed’ lawlessness to thrive.
Speaking to LBC’s Nick Ferrari, said theft was ‘actually just not seen as a crime anymore’, adding: ‘We’ve become risk averse.’
Retail thefts have reportedly risen by 27 per cent across ten of the UK’s largest cities – and were up by 68 per cent in some, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said.
Physical attacks on staff at Tesco – which employs around 300,000 people in 2,800 UK stores – are up a third on last year’s levels.
The boss of the UK’s biggest supermarket chain described the impact on staff as heartbreaking, calling the assaults ‘an insult to shoppers and retail workers’.
Writing in The Mail on Sunday, the chief executive called for changes to the law and policing. Officers currently fail to attend more than two-thirds of serious retail crimes, even though shoplifting costs businesses almost £1billion a year.
The British Retail Consortium found that incidents of violence and abuse against retail workers almost doubled from more than 450 per day in 2019-20 to more than 850 last year.
Although Home Secretary Suella Braverman last month demanded police pursue all reasonable crime leads, law enforcement chiefs said they did not have the resources to pursue ‘minor’ incidents.
Yesterday’s alleged theft happened in one of the most exclusive parts of London where properties sell for millions.
‘Oh here we go!’ a witness says as two police officers approach, before they handcuff and put the man in the back of a police car.
The X account added two party emojis showing a happy face to the video ad captioned it: ‘This happened on the pavilion road this evening a guy had his watch stolen.
‘The guy was caught by a member of the public, the police came and he was arrested.’
Union Jack flags can be seen festooned above the scene.
One person who commented on the video joked: ‘Oh would you look at that – society coming together to apprehend a criminal and await for the authorities to take them to the custody suite.
‘Yet when I have the sheer temerity to suggest I would do that in other videos, I get people having a go at me. Funny that…’
The Metropolitan Police have been contacted for comment.