Police are investigating gangs selling tissues on the Underground

They might have links to organised crime

Tissue sellers are an increasingly common sight on London’s Tube network. The sellers, who are often Eastern European, offer small packets of tissues in exchange for money. They tend to operate during off-peak hours, leaving tissues on unoccupied seats along with notes asking for financial assistance.


Now police are investigating possible links between the sellers and organised criminal gangs. The Sunday Times reports that some Tube announcers have begun warning passengers not to hand over cash to them because they may be “part of an organised crime syndicate and the monies collected go to other illegal activities”.

British Transport Police’s Superintendent Jenny Gilmer told the paper:

“Since January and February we have noticed a pretty significant escalation of reports of this activity. There is no doubt that it is an organised activity.”

A spokesperson for the BTP confirmed to use that they were investigating criminal links:

“We have reason to believe that some beggars on the rail system may be part of organised crime groups. It is important that passengers report incidents of begging on their service as it helps us build up a bigger picture and understanding of the type and level of activity that takes place. Twitter and our discrete 61016 text messaging service are ideal for this purpose and we encourage passengers to use them. We’re currently trialling station announcements as preventative measure to discourage people from donating money, with the aim of reducing this type of crime.”

But they added it would be incorrect to believe all tissue sellers on London’s transport network are potentially linked to organised crime, claiming that where this is found to be the case officers seek to help rather than arrest them.