South Area Basic Command Unit (BCU) officers target mobile phone robbers across Croydon and Sutton
A South Area BCU operation from 8 to 14 January, targeting offenders along the Purley and Wallington border of Sutton and Croydon, has resulted in 11 arrests in the robbery of mobile phones belonging to school students, zero reporting of further such offences in the area since the operation, and positive feedback from internal and external partners and the local community.
The operation was in response to an increase in mobile phone robberies since October 2023, where offenders particularly targeted students who travelled by bus to and from school.
Police became aware of the phone robberies not only from monitoring crime reports but also from listening to the local communities who had voiced their concerns and supplied invaluable information about the offences.
Using precision-based intelligence, officers researched historical robberies in the relevant wards and produced a detailed crime picture. They identified that the offences took place at about school travel times and in and around bus stops in the locations of Purley and Woodcote, Purley Oaks, South Wallington, South Beddington, and Roundshaw.
Intelligence also showed that offenders typically were males between 14 and 17 years of age, operating in teams of two to three members, wearing Balaclavas and surgical facemasks to hide their faces.
Officers also knew that some offenders used public transport to travel to and from robberies. The Safer Transport Team officers were able to provide specialist knowledge about bus-enabled crime. The operation was put into practice to coincide with students returning school after Christmas, as they would be likely to be in possession of new and desirable phones.
Croydon and Sutton Safer Neighbourhood Teams and South Area Safer Transport Team, joined forces under Operation Zoedone to tackle this crime.
The week of action was supported by Schools officers, Mounted Branch, Territorial Support Group, and the Dog Support Unit. Officers and policing resources were deployed around schools, town centres and transport hubs to deter and disrupt organised mobile phone robbers targeting students for their mobile phones.
Uniformed officers were supported by plain-clothes officers across the tasking area, and the South Area Robbery team were deployed to assist with any live robbery incidents.
Four males working together who robbed pupils of their phones on two occasions, were tracked on CCTV, caught and arrested; two other males were caught trying to hide from police and were found in possession of stolen mobile phone paraphernalia and arrested; and five males were identified and arrested due to extensive secondary investigation for previously reported offences.
Prolific offenders were served community protection notices to deter them from future offending.
Officers were deployed to hotspot areas and targeted several known suspects and cleared the area of further robberies through persistent high vis-patrolling of the hotspot robbery areas. Schools officers attended school assemblies to provide crime prevention advice, while uniformed officers spoke to students on how to keep themselves and their possessions safe.
South Area BCU will continue Operation Zoedone to deter and disrupt crime in the area through Community protection Warnings and enforcement and intervention when needed by the local Safer Neighbourhood and School officers.