Security Tips: Pickpocketing, Table surfing, and Snatching

The Marble Arch BID maintains a close relationship with the Metropolitan Police, this allows us access to daily and weekly local crime statistics that highlight emerging issues and hotspot locations in our area. Since reopening the crime statistics show that pickpocketing, table surfing, snatching and robbery offences are on the rise, with one 24-hour period recently recording over 25 phone thefts in the West End and Edgware Road, and these were just the ones that were reported.

Security tips

What is 'Theft Person'?

Theft Person is a term that encompasses offences where people have their possessions stolen from their person. This can include pickpocketing, table surfing, and snatching.

  • Pickpocketing/Purse Dipping: Offenders will try and take items such as phones or wallets from people’s pockets or bags without the victim noticing. Sometimes they work in teams where one distracts the victim whilst the other pickpockets them. Supermarket customers in particular are victims of this crime in our area.
  • Table Surfing: Offenders will try and steal items from tables or chairs by distracting victims and using sleight of hand. An example of this is where someone will approach an outdoor table at a restaurant, identify a victim that has left their phone on the table, then under the pretense of asking for directions on a map, cover  and steal the phone from under the map.
  • Snatching: Offenders will snatch phones or bags from victims and escape before the victim is able to react. Bicycles, mopeds and e-Scooters are increasingly being used by offenders to commit this type of crime.

Robbery is similar to theft person, with the difference being that violence, or the threat of violence or a weapon is used by the offender on the victim, and possessions are stolen.

Security Tips: Pickpocketing, Table surfing, and Snatching
Security Tips: Pickpocketing, Table surfing, and Snatching

Helping to prevent theft

Whilst the Police and the Marble Arch Street Team are working hard to prevent these crimes, there is also a big push London wide to ensure that the workers and visitors in the area are aware of the dangers of ‘theft person’ and robbery and take the necessary measures to protect themselves. Some security tips that should be shared with your colleagues and customers include:

Always remain aware of your surroundings

When walking in the area, particularly early morning or late in the evening, please remain aware of your surroundings. If possible, keep your phone and other valuables tucked away to prevent criminals from spotting them. Do not walk around with earphones in as it reduces your spatial awareness.

Keep your valuables close to you

When in crowded areas be aware of where your possessions are and try and keep an area of space around you. It is suggested that valuables should be kept close to the body in secure pockets or bags. Pickpockets are very adept at stealing from hard-to-reach locations without the victim noticing so it is important that people maintain good awareness.

Do not leave any valuables on the table when dining al fresco

When sitting at a table, particularly outside, do not leave any valuables sitting on the table, or leave bags hanging on the back of chairs. This can make you a target for table surfers. Staff at bars, pubs and restaurants should be reminding customers of this point, many visitors are not aware of the risk of table surfing and will leave their phone on a table. Police safety advice should be made part of the initial greeting to the customer.

Security Tips: Pickpocketing, Table surfing, and Snatching
Security Tips: Pickpocketing, Table surfing, and Snatching

Keep an eye out for e-scooters, bicycles, and mopeds

E-Scooters, bicycles and mopeds are used in many theft person and robbery offences in the area. None of these modes of transport should be being used on the pavement so be aware if you see this happening. Listen for vehicles coming from behind and ensure that you are checking your surroundings regularly.

Plan your route 

Plan your route when travelling to avoid needing to check your phone for directions, a sense of confidence when walking can also lower the risk of you falling victim to crime. Do not automatically get your phone out of your bag as you leave a station.

Make use of the security features on your phone

Most phones have password or biometric functions, make sure these are in use to ensure that a thief cannot use your phone if it is stolen. Consider using a tracking software that will allow the Police to locate it if stolen, this can also be used so friends and family are aware of where you are.

Make a note of your phone’s IMEI number

You can check your phone’s IMEI number by dialing *#06#. Every phone has an IMEI number which helps Police and insurance companies to identify it if it is stolen. UK network operators can also stop a stolen phone from working across their networks with its IMEI.

Security Tips: Pickpocketing, Table surfing, and Snatching
Security Tips: Pickpocketing, Table surfing, and Snatching

The Metropolitan Police has further crime prevention information which can be found here. Remember, in an emergency dial 999 and in a non-emergency dial 101. Crime should always be reported as the Police and the Marble Arch BID use crime statistics to deploy resources and plan operations. Crime can also be easily reported online here.

The Marble Arch Street Team are continuing to patrol the BID area from 8am-10pm Monday to Saturday. They act as a deterrent for potential offenders and remind businesses and visitors of the above safety tips. The Street Team can be contacted on 07825 750 777, please email Harvey Beresford, our Security and Resilience Manager, if you would like further advice for your business and colleagues.