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Undercover Cops Wearing Fake Rolexes to Catch Thieves in London

The operation has been deemed a success with a significant drop in watch theft in London....

Watch theft has become a very prevalent issue since the end of the pandemic. Chalk it up to greater knowledge of watches, economic factors, or anything like that, the fact remains that it’s become almost a pandemic in itself. Not even the super-rich and famous are exempt, just ask Charles Leclerc. So London police have decided to do something a little more drastic.

Undercover police officers in London’s swanky West End have taken the decision to wear fake Rolexes to some of London’s nightclubs and restaurants to lure thieves and catch them in the act.

The crazy thing is that it’s actually working. They’ve conducted to operations overall several months in both 2022 and 2023 and arrested 27 people with 21 being convicted. As a result, watch robberies in Westminster, Kensington, Chelsea, Hammersmith, and Fulham have been reduced from 113 to 55 in the first half of 2023.

“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,” Ben Russell, the Metropolitan Police’s commander of intelligence, said.

“These criminals are hanging outside bars and clubs as people leave these venues, hoping to target people who may be intoxicated and therefore vulnerable.

“They’re not stealing people’s fakes – they are targeting original, genuine, expensive watches. They’re getting right up in people’s faces, they’re man-handling victims, they’re spending quite a bit of time talking to victims to make sure they know what they’re stealing.

“They’re looking for any luxury watch that can be resold for a high value. There isn’t one particular brand that stands out – but you see the likes of Rolex, Patek Philippe… they can be worth anything from £10,000 to upwards of £100,000.”

Watch companies themselves are also addressing the issue of watch theft with their own initiatives. Richemont and Audemars Piguet both began theft service programmes in 2023. AP will help victims directly by replacing, refunding, or repairing any stolen or damaged watch bought in 2022 or 2023 for two years from the time of purchase. While Richemont launched their Enquirus digital platform that allows users to register their watches via serial numbers and report them as stolen, helping police by providing a database of owned and stolen watches.

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