Jane Ball, News Editor
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Robberies spiked this time last year, jumping nearly four-fold in just one week - but why?
Shockingly, it was as a result of children targeting other children during the half-term break, Havering Police have revealed.
This year, detectives are determined to get a stranglehold on the situation, flooding town centres, parks, and other hang-outs with mounted police, PCSO bike patrols, covert teams, and officers with body cameras in a prevention and detection show of force.
“It is the first school break since Christmas,” explained Ds Tony Costanza. “Kids are in town centres, texting or using their new iPhones and BlackBerrys, and they’re being targeted.
“Nearly every kid has a smartphone these days but would an adult send out their child with £400 in their pocket? Probably not, but that’s the way it should be seen.”
Money, computer games and other desirables are also prime targets during robberies.
And police said flogging stolen goods has never been easier thanks to the internet.
The perpetrators are 17 and 18-year-olds, both home-grown and from out-of-town; their targets are aged 14 and 15.
Violence is rarely used, said Mr Costanza, but it is often intimated or a knife or other weapon flashed for effect.
“Our children are considered soft targets,” said Mr Costanza. “They are maybe not as streetwise as those kids in the inner city. Very often they’ll hand their phones over, which is the right thing to do.”
The number of robberies in Havering is relatively low compared to our neighbouring boroughs, police said, but it has jumped nearly 50 per cent in five years, from 341 in 2008/09 to 499 in 2011/12.
On the upside, the borough’s detection rate – in which convictions are secured - is one of the best in Met, at nearly 24 per cent.
“We have a great working partnership with the local authority, who man the towns’ CCTV cameras, and our safer transport colleagues,” said Mr Costanza. “We share info which leads to quick arrests.”
As part of this year’s robbery clampdown, every offender from 2012 will be visited by officers before the half term to warn them off a repeat performance.
Next week officers will tour secondary schools in the borough to spread safety messages, which advise against taking phones out in public or talking on them by the side of the road; they do recommend installing tracking apps, available online for free, and noting handset serial numbers.
“We are prepared to do what we can to stop robberies,” said Mr Costanza, “we want people to feel safe, whether they live in the borough or are just visiting.”