Thieves have stolen 300 luxury watches with a total value of £4 million (N4.6 billion) in six months in London, the Metropolitan police has said.
The force said two operations in 2022 and 2023 had reduced watch robberies in and around Westminster after 300 luxury watches with a total value of £4m were stolen between April and September 2022.
It said 27 men have been charged with offences.
CCTV released by the Met shows undercover officers being targeted in central London hotspots 4,615,464,000.00
The Met Police has used undercover “victim” officers to catch robbers attempting to steal luxury watches in central London.
Cdr for Intelligence Ben Russell said two operations in 2022 and 2023 led to watch robbery reductions in and around Westminster.
The work came after 300 luxury watches with a total value of £4m were stolen between April and September 2022.
Cdr Russell said 27 men have been charged with offences.
Two operations carried out in late 2022 and 2023 across South Kensington, Chelsea, Soho and Mayfair saw officers deployed as potential targets wearing expensive watch brands.
Opportunistic criminals who tried robbing the watches in the street were apprehended by other undercover officers nearby, with both operations leading to 21 convictions to date.
Cdr Russell said that the robbers were in groups of young men, mainly in their 20s and 30s, “waiting for victims” by hanging around outside bars and clubs between 23:00 and 04:00 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
The robbers targeted luxury Swiss brands such as Rolex and Patek Philippe, which retain a high value in second-hand markets.
“The suspects would tend to offer access to sex workers or drugs before taking the victims to side streets or approaching them from behind, before carrying out the robbery,” Cdr Russell said.
In the past five years, 29,000 watches have been reported stolen to the Met, with one in five of those thefts involving violence, a Freedom of Information request by database The Watch Register found.
The company operates a global database of lost and stolen watches.