SHOPLIFTING in Britain’s poshest neighbourhood has doubled in the past year – with thieves swiping high-value products and swiftly selling them on to cash in.
London’s SW3 Chelsea postcode stretches south west from Sloane Square and includes the King’s Road, which is full of high-end stores, iconic fashion houses — and thieves making stealing the No1 crime in the area.
Shoplifting in Britain’s poshest neighbourhood has doubled in the past year[/caption]
Chelsea’s King’s Road has become a haven for shoplifters[/caption]
But we can reveal that grim new statistics from police.uk show a quarter of all the offences committed in the area involve shoplifting.
Over three years, stealing from retail premises accounted for 9.6 per cent of crimes.
In the past 12 months it hit 12.5 per cent — and it was 25.8 per cent for July, the most recent month on record.
At the upmarket King’s Road shop Strathberry, where handbags sell for up to £1,000 each, manager Lucy Lewis said the stats don’t shock her.
And she revealed crooks have even started dressing like well-heeled Chelsea locals to steal as much as they can unnoticed.
She explained: “One was dressed in a suit with a shoulder bag and looked like a professional, buying a bag for his girlfriend after work.
“Another was in his 60s or 70s and looking well-to-do.”
Within days of stock being nicked, store owners are finding it for sale online.
Lucy said: “Bags worth £1,000 and are being sold for £50.”
Poverty campaigners last night insisted some theft is carried out in desperation as families struggle to survive amid the cost-of-living crisis.
David McKelvey, a former Met detective chief inspector who owns private investigation company TM Eye, which worked in SW3 until last year catching shoplifters for posh stores, disagrees.
He told us: “It is a fallacy that people steal to eat.
“Most shoplifting is committed by organised crime gangs or addicts.
“We recently caught someone with £3,000 of fashion bags on the King’s Road, but the retailer was not prepared to prosecute because they got the property back.
“However, the shoplifter leaves the shop emboldened.
“The reality is the police do not have the resources and most big retailers have this non-intervention policy.
“They do not share CCTV and we are left in a catch-22 situation.
“We encounter the same shoplifters daily.
“They sell stuff at car boot sales and online.
“They know which shops to target because they have a non-intervention policy or they know that if they keep under the £200 limit brought in by the Government, that effectively decriminalises shoplifting, nothing will happen.”
Chelsea has a history at the heart of global fashion, from the swinging Sixties right up to the present day.
Designer names today include Vivienne Westwood and Calvin Klein.
Yet while attracting high-end shoppers, the posh outlets are also a lure for criminals.
Tools of the trade
King’s Road Partnership — which represents 300 shops in the area including Peter Jones, Marks & Spencer, Auerbach & Steele, Designers Guild and Space NK — said that in 2023 their street patrol team had identified 60 prolific offenders who had nicked more than £100,000 in goods in 35 incidents.
Panos Papathanasiou, manager of the Pinko boutique — another swanky bag store — says his shop is one being targeted.
CCTV caught a still of a suspected shoplifter with a rucksack running from Peter Jones in Chelsea[/caption]
More CCTV footage shows a shoplifting suspect with a jumper in her hand[/caption]
He added: “Lots of thieves blend in easily with respectable people on King’s Road.
“Sometimes they sweep as many bags as they can into a larger bag and run.
“They can be worth up to £2,000 each.”
The manager at King’s Road boutique Muse revealed business chiefs were uniting in a bid to see off the grasping crooks.
Mia said: “We share details of shoplifters on WhatsApp with all the other managers.
“You can see that quite a lot are smart, middle class-looking people.
“We are trained to look out for people who might look worse for wear, but now it is different.
“The thieves now know the job and dress for it.”
She said that over the summer a gang of seven or eight overwhelmed the shop and stuffed clothes into bags before fleeing with hundreds of pounds in dresses and shirts.
Posh perfumery Penhaligon’s — which has served the Royal Family throughout its 150-year history and who King Charles worked with last year to create a perfume — said it had upgraded security to help battle the onslaught of light-fingered customers.
The manager of its King’s Road store, Abelina, said: “People you wouldn’t expect are shoplifting.
“They look very respectable, they are not the usual suspects.
“This is definitely on the increase in the past year.
“But there are also instances of quite nasty attacks.
“One nearby bag shop had £30,000 to £40,000 of bags stolen after staff were threatened with a knife.”
Investigator David and his team of plain-clothes detectives have assisted in the prosecution of over 300 shoplifting cases, leading to custodial sentencing and the courts banning culprits from certain areas.
They have a rogues’ gallery of offenders, some of whom are below.
Stores paid the squad to carry out patrols and, if they spotted an offence being committed they use existing powers to detain people.
A shoplifter puts goods in a bag in Holland and Barrett[/caption]
They interview suspects using police guidelines and put their evidence to the courts.
One of their undercover sleuths is 24-year-old Shaun, who worked in the King’s Road area.
He said: “With Covid, all the stores reduced security to save money and that level of security has not really recovered. Many stores do not have CCTV. What we have noticed recently is the increase in violent, threatening behaviour towards staff, which is less about assault but more about aggression.
“We have also noticed a lot more people are carrying weapons such as knives. Also more people are becoming aware of the tools of the trade.”
These include various items to beat security tags that can cost as little as £3.29 online.
Shaun added said: “People will adapt their clothing by cutting the inner lining of a coat and pop clothes in there. Some women adapt their skirts to include a separate pocket in the lining.
“Shoplifters will also adapt big shopping bags so they do not set off doorway security alarms.”
But shoplifters invariably give themselves away by their body language.
Shaun added: “If they have an empty bag, that is a ‘tell’ — but one of the biggest tells is with a genuine customer they usually know what they are looking for and where to go.
“A shoplifter is not interested in the product. Instead, they’re looking at staff, security and CCTV.”
ANDREA GALY was convicted of of stealing four pairs of jeans worth £660 from Bluemint in SW3.
In May 2022 he was caught stealing nine pairs of shorts, six T-shirts, and nine swimsuits from Boden and three handbags worth £695 from Russell & Bromley.
MUKTADIR HUSSAIN pleaded guilty to three charges of theft and another of going equipped to steal and was sentenced to eight weeks in prison.
He had stolen items including eight jumpers from clothing shop Reiss, King’s Road, valued at £784.
KATE WHEALE was charged with stealing two sets of Beats headphones worth £258 and two sets of Bose headphones worth £238, all from Peter Jones in Sloane Square.
She failed to appear at City of London Magistrates in March this year.
J’NAYA ANDREW, 20, of West London, was jailed for two years and six months for knifepoint robbery.
She took a £4,900 bag from Designer Exchange, King’s Road, and was in a gang which robbed £52,000 of bags from Louis Vuitton in Sloane Street.
GEORGE-ANDREI CRETU was found guilty of theft after stealing four pairs of sunglasses worth £1,508 from the Sunglasses Hut on the King’s Road in April last year.
He got a 12-month community order with 40 hours unpaid work.
JACK LANDRUM pleaded guilty at Magistrates Court to stealing Bvlgari perfume worth £97.75 from Peter Jones, Sloane Square and also had a pair of pliers for the purposes of theft.
He was released on bail and did not attend sentencing.
CHRISTOPHER MAIL is charged with stealing a quantity of clothing with a retail value of £312.00 from Cos on the King’s Road in February 2022.
He failed to appear at court in May and a warrant has been issued.
BARBARA KLAR is charged with stealing sunscreen and cosmetics worth a total of £210.86 from Boots on the King’s Road in February 2022.
She failed to appear at court the following October and is now wanted.
THE Sun on Sunday last week revealed South London shop owner Ben Selvaratnam’s seven-day diary of CCTV footage after he was targeted by up to ten thefts and attempted thefts A DAY.
The UK is in the middle of a shoplifting epidemic.
Ben Selvaratnam sees 10 shoplifting attempts a DAY at his shop in Croydon, South London[/caption]
Stealing from stores has more than doubled in the past three years, costing retailers £953million, according to the British Retail Consortium.
There were around eight million incidents of shoplifting in the 12 months to March 2023.
Only a tiny fraction of stolen goods are recovered.
Police chiefs have been accused of effectively decriminalising thefts of goods worth less than £200 since law changes allowed such offences to be handled by post with a £70 fine.
Supermarkets up and down the country are counting the cost.
The Co-op said it had recorded “out of control” levels of retail crime, shoplifting and antisocial behaviour in the six months to June, with almost 1,000 incidents each day.