Luxury watch thefts surpass drugs as criminals’ top choice in UK

The theft of high-end watches has become a criminal enterprise more profitable than drug dealing, according to former dealer Paul Thorpe, who was forced to retire after being violently robbed three times. Thorpe claims that a week’s worth of stealing luxury watches in London could generate more money than some people earn in a lifetime. He believes that in many areas, watch theft has surpassed drug dealing as the crime of choice for some gangs.

The criminal activity has been fuelled by the soaring demand for second-hand watches, with the value of these items nearly doubling in just a few years. Since 2015, the number of stolen watches recorded in England and Wales has almost doubled, from 6,696 to 11,035 last year, according to data from shared with Sky News. Over 6,000 of these thefts occurred in London.

Nick Triggs and his wife were robbed of their Rolexes in South Kensington in January last year. Triggs suffered a broken cheekbone, lost several teeth, and sustained permanent nerve damage. However, he says the psychological damage is the most severe, causing mental scarring that lingers in the back of his mind.

Thieves often use spotters to target wealthy areas, waiting outside high-end bars, restaurants, or watch shops to see who leaves with a bag before confronting them in the street or following them home. Some spotters work as waiters or drivers, texting ahead to the gang to let them know who to target. Others stalk social media sites, looking for people posing with expensive watches and visible locations.

Related news

Once the crime is committed, watches are small, easily concealed, and can be resold at a significant profit, with demand and value having skyrocketed since the pandemic. Danny Shahid, owner of Diamond Watches London, says the increased value of luxury watches now attracts the wrong attention, and those who wear them are being targeted.

Some watch owners are so fearful that they are hiring bodyguards and private security teams to protect themselves in high-risk areas. Alex Boden of Sagacity Security told Sky News that they offer services such as picking up watches for clients who don’t feel confident going shopping or accompanying clients to pick up their pieces.

Commander Richard Smith, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for personal robbery, acknowledged that such crimes have a “devastating impact” on victims and leave them with “long-lasting trauma.” He added that the police continue to proactively target habitual criminals responsible for a large proportion of offending, while engaging with communities to improve education around personal safety.

World News

Jamie Cartwright

Jamie is a keen traveler, writer, and (English) teacher. A few years after finishing school in the East Mids, UK, he went traveling around South America and Asia. Several teaching and writing jobs, he found himself at The Thaiger where he mostly covers international news and events.

Related Articles