Met Police fight new wave of robberies targeting freshers and offer advice for students

The police launched a new initiative outside the XOYO nightclub in Shoreditch

The Metropolitan Police has launched a campaign aimed at tackling a new wave of robberies targeting freshers and other young people on nights out.

The police report an uptick in crimes – particularly mobile phone thefts – in nightlife hotspots, with suspects taking advantage of drunk students and young people.

The campaign aims to raise awareness around the methods employed by criminals to deceive victims, including exchanging social media information and selling nitrous oxide balloons.

On Monday night, a few dozen police officers patrolled outside the popular Shoreditch nightclub XOYO and distributed leaflets to young partygoers. The operation sought to make potential victims aware of the ways that they might be targeted as well as to deter opportunistic robberies through an overt police presence.

Sergeant Neil Fraser, a member of the Islington Council licensing team, told The Tab: “Within the nighttime economy, there’s a particular type of robbery where people are distracting their victims in order to get their mobile phones. They might ask their victim to pass their mobile phone over so they can swap phone numbers or swap social media accounts.”

According to Sergeant Fraser, there have been instances in which suspects threaten violence when victims ask for their phone back, sometimes using knives.

Angelo Weekes, an Islington Councillor present overseeing the project, told The Tab that perpetrators are “getting very sophisticated with their tactics.” He describes how some victims have had their bank funds drained as they unlock their accounts to transfer money for balloons, vapes or other substances. Perpetrators then grab their phones and transfer themselves money from the unlocked bank accounts.

The General Manager at XOYO also reports a recurring problem with balloon sellers robbing drunk partygoers. Asked why she thinks that balloons are a particular issues, she said: “It’s the new, young, cool thing to do, it seems, and [the sellers] take advantage of young people.”

The police initiative is a response to rising crime, with Sergeant Fraser telling The Tab: “We have seen an increase in robbery in the nighttime economy, hence the reason we need to be proactive in not only targeting suspects but also making potential victims aware.”

Using the slogan “Look up. Look out”, the campaign aims primarily at prevention and awareness. According to Sergeant Fraser, the easiest way for students to protect themselves is to “monitor your alcohol intake, have a friend with you who can look out for you, have your wits about you and be naturally suspicious.”

The success of the initiative likely depends on the police’s ability to engage students, who may be skeptical following high profile scandals about the Met. Acknowledging potential mistrust among young people, Sergeant Fraser said: “We want students to have a safe night, to not get robbed and to not be the victims of drink spiking and, hopefully, by seeing our consistent approach, they’ll have more trust and we’ll have less crime.”

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