Watch: Met Police sting to catch luxury watch robbers in the West End and Soho using undercover officers

Video shows the moment the Met Police springs a trap on a gang of watch robbers.
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The Met Police has released video footage of undercover officers targeting a luxury watch robbery in central London in response to a dramatic rise in high value watches being stolen. 

Scotland Yard used a data-driven, intelligence-led investigation to pinpoint hotspots where a group of men were carrying out thefts in central London boroughs.

Officers from the Met Covert Policing Command and central London Robbery teams set up two operations to identify the robbers.

They ran from October to December 2022 and March to October 2023 within the Soho – area which along with the other hotspots of Mayfair and the south part of Kensington and Chelsea,  accounted for 40% of all watch robberies in London.

Intelligence showed suspects targeting victims leaving pubs and nightclubs, most of whom were intoxicated and in a vulnerable state. 

The robbers would then lead or follow their victims to a quiet side street before grabbing them from behind and trying to rip the watch from their wrist.

Undercover officers posed as members of the public, all in possession of luxury watches, with the aim of catching robbers in the area red-handed. 

Robbers close in on a man in central London. (Photo by MPS)Robbers close in on a man in central London. (Photo by MPS)
Robbers close in on a man in central London. (Photo by MPS)

In one CCTV clip the footage shows an officer out in the Soho area late at night. He was approached by one offender whom the victim believed was leading him to a brothel. 

Four males, who had been following the victim for the last 20 minutes, continued to follow him and offender one. Once in a quieter street, all five suspects surround the victim and subsequently rob the victim of his watch. 

Backup officers can be seen running to the scene to arrest the offenders.

The two operations resulted in 31 arrests and 27 charges, leading to 21 convictions to date. Of this group, 14 individuals have so far been sentenced to a total of 26 years overall, with other cases pending.

The second operation ran from March-October 2023. Scotland Yard says it saw a 15.8% reduction in watch robberies compared to the same period the previous year (429 in March-October 2022, 361 in March-October 2023).

A number of high profile watch thefts have been reported in recent years including former world boxing champion Amir Khan who had his £70,000 diamond encrusted Franck Muller Vanguard Chronograph watch stolen at gunpoint.

Between April and September 2022, Scotland Yard reported over 300 watches stolen across the three boroughs of Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham., with a total value of nearly £4 million.

Ben Russell, commander for Met Intelligence, said: “This a rare chance to give the public insight into the work done by our undercover officers, which resulted in 31 robbers arrested in a 12-month period, all caught red-handed trying to steal high value watches in the heart of the West End. Fourteen have already been convicted, with more awaiting sentencing and other cases pending. 

“Using data and intelligence, we identified the locations and times where these crimes were taking place and deployed undercover officers into the area, as part of our precision-based approach to fighting crime.” 

“By targeting the people causing the most harm and the locations most frequently linked to crime, we are having a greater impact on keeping people safe. 

“Undercover operations will always carry an element of personal danger and, while we risk assess all our operations thoroughly, all the officers involved demonstrated extraordinary courage and determination to keep Londoners safe.”