The Metropolitan Police has released dramatic footage of undercover officers catching high-value watch thieves in Soho, central London.
Revealing the tactic for the first time, officers posed as inebriated and wealthy targets with expensive time-pieces.
The footage shows gang members approach undercover officers late at night and strike up a conversation before surrounding and attempting to rip the luxury watches from their wrists.
As backup arrives the criminals attempt to run before being tasered and tackled to the ground.
The Metropolitan Police has released dramatic footage of undercover officers
The new targeted approach was introduced due to a dramatic rise in high-value watches being stolen in crime “hotspots”.
In the six months prior to October 2022 over 300 luxury watches were stolen with a value of nearly £4million.
Forty per cent of the robberies took place in the West End, Soho, Mayfair, Kensington, and Chelsea.
The Met used that information to target precise locations, times and places where criminal gangs were most likely to operate as part of a “precision-based approach”.
Information revealed that suspects were targeting inebriated victims who were exiting bars and clubs.
Gang members would offer drugs or access to sex workers before luring them to a quiet place.
Ben Russell, Commander for Met Intelligence, praised the “extraordinary courage” of undercover officers who put themselves in “personal danger” by volunteering to become targets.
Met police say covert operation has halved luxury watch thefts
Thirty-one people were arrested as a result of the stings with 27 successful charges and 21 convictions to date.
So far 14 people have been sentenced to a total of 26 years.
Since the scheme began the number of watch robberies has halved across the London boroughs of Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham.