London police arrest shoplifters who gathered in response to TikTok trend
Police apprehended a young man who turned up on Oxford Street on August 9 with dozens of others in response to viral videos that encouraged people to shoplift from stores in the area. Credit: Newsflare
A TikTok-inspired looting incident in London last month prompted concerns about the levels of safety and crime in the city, with data indicating that while some violent crimes have dropped, much remains unchanged, compared to where it stood pre-pandemic.
Alan Mendoza, co-founder and executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, told Fox News Digital that both London Mayor Sadiq Khan and the London Metropolitan Police, commonly referred to as The Met, have reported on and pursued only certain crimes in their effort to try and clean up London’s image, but that the wider picture remains troubling.
“London is significantly more crime-ridden in 2023 than it was when Mayor Khan took office in 2016, and the trend is rising once again after a lull during the pandemic,” Mendoza said. “Londoners are feeling less safe as a result, a perception exacerbated by the Met seemingly uninterested in pursuing lower-level crimes like burglary and mugging that have a devastating effect on those robbed.”
“If this pattern accelerates, it won’t be long before tourists start giving London a wide berth on account of fears about their personal safety, so the onus is on the winning candidate in next year’s election to get a grip on this problem firmly and decisively.”
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Police and large groups of young people in Oxford Circus hours after the mass TikTok crime was due to take place in London on August 9, 2023. ( Matthew Chattle/Alamy Live News)
Only one year ago, Khan acknowledged that crime in London had surged, but at that time he blamed the issue on a number of factors – most prominently, the cost of living crisis in the U.K. – and poured millions into tackling the problem as critics targeted his record on crime, The Guardian reported at the time.
Concerns over London’s crime took focus again following a TikTok video that appeared on the app in early August that urged users to show up at JD Sports, a store located in the heavily trafficked shopping district on Oxford Street, and ‘rob the place.’ The post spread across the platform and jumped to Snapchat, trending under the tag “Oxford Circus JD robbery,” according to The Independent.
The posts included a time for people to show up – 3 p.m. on August 9 – and even suggested a dress code.
Tourists make their way through Covent Garden in London, UK, on Wednesday, August 3, 2022. (Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
In a statement to Fox News Digital, the Metropolitan Police said that officers were aware of the trend ahead of time and “maintained a high visibility presence” within the area. The police made “various arrests and charges,” with criminal proceedings ongoing against a number of teenagers and at least one man in his 40s who was later released with no further action.
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The police arrested nine individuals in the end, with some released on bail while awaiting criminal proceedings and some given mere cautions. The first of these suspects appeared in court on August. 24, with another appearing in a Magistrates’ Court on September 4.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak issued a fiery rebuke against those who participated in the incident and warned that similar, future trends would be “met with the full force of the law,” The Telegraph reported.
Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak looks at knives and machetes seized from knife attacks, during a visit to the Kilburn police station, northwest of London, on August 30, 2023. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images))
“I have got to say it is appalling. Criminal damage, criminal behavior is unacceptable,” Sunak said at the time. The prime minister was on vacation in the U.S. at the time of the incident and did not respond until after he returned to the U.K.
“I fully support the police in bringing those people to justice,” he added. “I want anyone watching who is thinking about this, who sees something like this, to know that they will be met with the full force of the law because that type of behavior is simply unacceptable in our society.”
Police officers detain a person as disrupters target shops during a shoplifting spree flash mob on Oxford Street in London, Britain August 9, 2023. (Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett)
London Mayor Sadiq Khan had cautioned people against going to Oxford Street and participating in the looting ahead of the incident, calling it “nonsense” and asking that no one “allow yourself to be sucked into an area that could be a high crime area.”
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London remains a popular tourist attraction, drawing some 21 million visitors pre-pandemic, with around 3.6 million “overnight visits” coming from North America, according to the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics. Following the end of the coronavirus lockdown and easing of travel restrictions, London’s global number fell short with around 16 million, but the number of North American visitors hit 3.5 million.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan leaves Millbank Studios after conducting media interviews on August 29, 2023, in London, England. (Carl Court/Getty Images)
A spokesperson for the Mayor’s office told Fox News Digital that Khan made it clear that what occurred on Oxford Street was “completely unacceptable” and that while it was a “stand-alone incident,” the mayor “recognizes the concern of business owners.”
The spokesperson touted Khan’s investment in the Met, which has seen its ranks swell with 1,300 new officers and creating a “Violence Reduction Unit.”
“Violent crime in London continues to fall with knife crime, gun crime, burglary and teenage homicides all down since 2016 when he first entered office,” the spokesperson said.
“Keeping Londoners safe will always be the Mayor’s top priority,” the spokesperson added, noting that the mayor will continue to stress the need for greater “local neighborhood policing.”
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Metropolitan police keeping order during August’s Notting Hill Carnival. (HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP)
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan police in a separate statement told Fox News Digital that the police have made “violent crime and tackling crime against women and girls” a key part of their plan to help “continue to work to drive down crime in London,” with officers using “a range of tactics from prevention and diversion activities to enforcement.”
“We remain confident in our continued determination to progress the in-roads we have made, along with our partners to prevent and tackle violence and keep our communities safe,” the spokesperson added.
Police and bystanders stand outside the British Museum after a stabbing incident close to the museum, in London, on Tuesday, August 8. (Jordan Pettitt/PA via AP)
Data provided by the Metropolitan police and the mayor’s own figures note that while gun and knife crime has dropped in London, it is mainly in certain categories such as “knife crime with injury under 25,” relating to youth crime – while “knife crime with injury” broadly has only dropped by about 1% from the start of the mayor’s tenure.
Gun crime has dropped significantly, while burglary has dropped by about 20% in that time as well. Robbery, defined as illegal taking of property using violence or intimidation, has dropped by about 16% compared to the pre-pandemic level
But a general review of crime rates from August. 2023 compared to August 2019, i.e. prior to the start of the coronavirus pandemic, finds that some key crimes remain largely unchanged, with 84,709 total offenses in 2019, compared to 85,077 in 2023.
General crimes of “violence against the person” have risen since pre-pandemic, with reported cases below 20,000 on average before, and cases remaining largely at or over 20,000 since. The Met recorded around 21,063 such cases reported last month, compared to 18,652 pre-pandemic.
The New Scotland Yard sign and building, the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police, which is responsible for policing the boroughs of London on the 25th of May 2021, Westminster, London, United Kingdom. (Andrew Aitchison / In pictures via Getty Images)
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Theft, which is defined as illegal taking of property without violence or intimidation, over those four years has largely returned to the same rate, with the Met recording 21,055 offenses in August 2019 and 22,595 in August 2023. The rate has dropped over the past few months, but it has remained around or above 20,000 since the end of lockdown in mid-2022.
Sexual offenses have also risen from 1,558 to 1,997, with the average largely over 2,000 since the end of lockdown, whereas the rate remained at that level beforehand.
Peter Aitken is a Fox News Digital reporter with a focus on national and global news.