Wembley : Cops target jewellery muggings
Detectives have launched a massive undercover operation to crack down on thieves who are snatching gold chains and valuable jewellery from unsuspecting women, writes Kate Ferguson. Officers say they are experiencing an unprecedented crime wave of jewell
Detectives have launched a massive undercover operation to crack down on thieves who are snatching gold chains and valuable jewellery from unsuspecting women, writes Kate Ferguson.
Officers say they are experiencing an unprecedented crime wave of jewellery muggings, with some 90 reported in the last 12 weeks alone - with many more suspected unreported.
The thugs prey on Asian women out shopping during the day in and around Ealing Road in Wembley Central, and at the market in Church Road, Harlesden. They target women of Asian origin wear gold necklaces and bangles, which have a symbolic significance in Indian culture.
The oldest known victim was an 86-year-old woman, and at least one lady was attacked while walking with her child.
Senior intelligence analyst, Mark Parkinson, from Brent police, said: "It is probably one of our largest issues in terms of robbery at the moment.
"Muggings for jewellery have always happened, but this is on a scale we have not seen before.
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"They are flavour of the month because it is easy and quick, they snatch the jewellery and quickly run off. By the time the police arrive they are well away.
"They are mainly targeting the older members of the community and that is because as a young lad its easier to snatch chains from an old lady. It is calculating and very cowardly."
The muggers lurk by the markets in Church Road and Ealing Road, and then follow women wearing gold to a quieter spot out of sight of CCTV cameras.
They then snatch the jewellery and make off either on foot, or by a moped or bicycle.
In some instances, it is thought they caught cabs to make a fast getaway.
Police think the rise in jewellery muggings may be down to the recent upsurge in companies advertising 'cash for gold' amid the growing popularity of the precious metal as a relatively safe investment in an economy only slowly emerging from recession.
Mr Parkinson warned that by buying gold remotely from people through the postal system these companies could be unwittingly aiding muggers who use the service as an easy route to sell stolen goods, which are hard to trace back to the mugger.
Raj Unadkat, a manager at a jewellery store in Ealing Road, said many of his customers have been targeted by the thugs.
Mr Unadkat said: "There is a lot of thieving in this area and a lot of the customers are complaining about it. It is happening all the time, day by day.
"We had at least three customers in the other day who said they had their chains snatched when they were on their way to Alperton School around the corner to pick up their children."
Plain-clothed officers are visiting the hotspots and covertly filming those they suspect of involvement, but they warn that more witnesses must come forward if the criminals are to be tracked down.
Mr Parkinson said: "We are urging people to be aware of themselves, their surroundings, and to report anything that may be suspicious."
He said most of the suspects are young black men, although some white and Asian men are also thought to be involved.