Observational documentary series. An Oxford Street policeman has a shift to remember as he takes on dangerous cars, drunks and rooftop intruders.
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It's the most famous shopping street in the world,
in the heart of Britain's capital city.
A mile and a half long with 30 million visitors each year.
With some of the world's most famous shops... CHEERING
..and busiest stations.
Sorry, guys, stand back for me!
What does it take to keep it running 24 hours a day...
Busiest street in the world so it needs constant attention.
..seven days a week?
Oi! Clear off!
You're going to be arrested on suspicion of attempted theft.
Are you ready, London?
A street that never sleeps.
This sort of thing wouldn't happen anywhere else.
Coming up, dodgy vehicles,
drunks and rooftop intruders.
Police! Just come down here!
An Oxford Street policeman has a shift to remember.
And the secret world of bicycle couriers.
Yes, we're cutting it tight.
We need to pull out the hat for these people.
With over 30 million visitors a year from hundreds of countries spending
billions of pounds, there's never a dull moment on Oxford Street.
The street's police team, known as ORB, know their shifts can
take in anything and everything, from bomb scares...
It could have been a bomb.
..to concerned tourists reporting dead bodies.
Just repeat that.
Excuse me, it's the police. Excuse me! Hello?
He's moving. He's fine and well. He was just asleep.
The special demands of the street means it's vital uniformed officers
have good people skills and an approachable character.
And aiming to fit that bill is PC Barry Nicholls.
He's been a policeman for a year and a half
and comes from a long line of family members in public service.
I've got two older brothers in the police service actually at the
moment, and my father was London Ambulance for most of his career.
Definitely proud of the service. It's a privilege.
Today, his ten-hour shift will see him
put all his people skills to the test.
The first problems he has to deal with are alcohol-related.
At Oxford Circus, halfway down the street, a homeless man is drinking
on the pavement outside clothes shop Benetton, a strict no-no.
Barry needs him gone.
You can either drink that up...
or we can pour it away,
but you need to do it now and then we can move you on, mate.
He's drinking in a controlled drinking zone.
It's an issue on this area at the moment and we're trying to
clamp down on it a bit.
We do have the power just to take it and pour it away,
but obviously that's a bit brutal.
And just on the back of that, if I see you drinking again today,
I will be confiscating it.
All right, mate.
With a touch of patience, Barry has got what he wanted all along -
to move the man away from Oxford Street.
What you could see there was a very ill man.
The last place he needs to be is a custody suite.
Further down the street there's another man who's had one too many.
You all right there, sir?
Hello, mate! You OK?
The man, just out of the army, has been sick and is in a bad way.
-You can't hardly string a sentence together.
-Yup. I agree.
And... And all I'm worried about, yeah, all I'm simply just here for,
if you like, is that I suppose I'm a little bit concerned,
in a way, how you're going to get home safely.
-So what is the plan?
Get on to the next, um...
..er, bus without hurting anyone.
All right. You're coming round a bit now, I can see that. All right?
-Thank you, Sergeant.
-I'll leave you to it, mate, yeah?
Satisfied the man is no danger to himself or others,
Barry leaves him and continues his shift.
As the rain starts to fall,
he teams up with fellow officer Daniel Sinclair.
This being Oxford Street, they have to keep an eye out
for anything which might cause a problem.
And with his eyes on the road, Barry spots something potentially serious.
-What are you doing, Barry?
-I just want to...
You all right, mate? How did you get the damage on your car?
When was this?
Yeah, could you just pull over after the lights, mate? Cheers.
The side of the car has been smashed and has jagged edges.
Barry is worried it could hurt a pedestrian.
Just wanted to stop and see what was going on, really.
When did this happen?
Barry thinks that's a long time to be driving a potentially
dangerous vehicle around.
If it hit someone, it would cause significant damage to a person.
Personally, I don't think that the vehicle's safe to be...
To be driving down the road, really.
Barry wants the car off the road and nowhere near Oxford Street,
but he's not sure he has sufficient legal grounds.
So he plans on getting a second opinion from an expert.
I've just pulled over a car that's all smashed in on the nearside
Is there any traffic unit that can assist?
Help is on its way.
Traffic officers have the power to prohibit
a vehicle from using the roads.
In my opinion it's not roadworthy, but at the end of the day
what we're doing now is getting a traffic unit down
and they will have the final say on it.
The owner is insisting the police have previously checked
and OK'd the car.
Could Barry be wrong for stopping him?
Well, it's a very subjective thing, really. But in my...
-I'm not arguing with you, I'm...
-No, no, that's fine, that's fine.
I just pointing out the fact...
I'm just saying that in my opinion,
if you hit a pedestrian even at 5mph...
-..with that, you're going to do some serious damage.
-Whereas if that wasn't like that...
-..things would be a lot different.
If the traffic officers agree with the driver,
then Barry will have wasted everyone's time.
It's a nervous wait.
-Is this hers?
Later, we'll see if Barry's suspicions are correct.
Oxford Street isn't just a shopper's paradise.
The area is one of London's creative and business hubs.
Hundreds of officers, advertising agencies, fashion magazines
and film-makers are densely packed
into the roads to the north and south.
In this fast paced world, the post is much too slow.
If a company wants to move a document or hard drive across town
in half an hour, there's only one option.
The fastest way through the traffic and crowds is by bicycle.
119, yeah. Got some more, Rog.
This is the control room of
one of the largest courier companies in London,
and Martin is one of their controllers.
Every day of the week we get busy. From nine till six o'clock,
it is absolute chaos. Controlled chaos, I will say.
Friday, and we've got more work than we can possibly handle.
Deliveries are made by van,
motorcycle or one of their 35 bike messengers.
Drop the one you're doing, collect this one
I'm sending you now. Sending you details of Deutsche Bank, yeah?
Bicycle couriers are a key cog in the silent infrastructure that
keeps the capital's business world working.
We've got a lot of riders on Oxford Street all day long.
It links up the entirety of the West End -
it goes from one side to the other. If not the busiest street in London,
it's one of the best ones to get around as well.
It's Martin's job to match each of the day's hundreds of packages
to one of his three dozen riders.
One of those is Johnny.
All right, Johnny? Morning, morning, morning!
Top of Oxford Street as per usual.
We should have a nice busy day for you.
It's not long before Martin gets a booking,
and he radios Johnny through the first pick-up of the day.
208, 208, Johnny.
Get yourself to Broadwick Street, Broadwick Street.
We're going to get you going from there, Roger.
And Johnny is on his bike.
Riders are self-employed and he is paid per job.
If he wants to make a living,
he's got to meet strict targets that he sets himself.
If you do 25 a day, you can expect to be earning over 350 a week.
If you can see halfway through the day that you're going to
struggle to get 20 jobs, then your stress levels increase
and you're wondering where the work's going to come from.
Originally from Manchester, Johnny trained
and worked as a lab technician before his love of bikes
and the outdoors lured him into the world of bike couriering.
But before he's got the first delivery under his belt today,
Johnny's plan is changed.
'208, 208, Johnny.'
Just come back to Picton Place, Picton Place.
A new booking has come through
and the pick-up address is on Johnny's route. He gets going.
Cycle couriers can ride up to 80 miles in a day,
the distance from Manchester to Coventry.
Yes, thanks a lot, cheers.
Packages should be picked up and delivered within
an hour of booking, so Johnny is back on his way to that first job.
Once again, he's redirected.
Sometimes you never know quite what the controller is doing.
I still haven't picked up the one in Soho, so I need to get on with it.
Johnny must trust that Martin is doing the right thing,
as it is his job to make sure all the riders are working efficiently.
If he's seen an opportunity for a rider to do two jobs at once,
he can and will re-route them.
OK, so, actually this is quite good. I've got something in Picton Place.
And it's going to Broadwick Street,
where I've actually got a pick-up which I haven't done yet.
Later, as the Friday afternoon jobs mount up,
the pressure to hit deadlines and targets increases.
One within half an hour would be fine,
but a struggle with both of them.
Get yourself moving, all right?
Earlier on, we saw ORB police officer Barry Nicholls
stop this vehicle.
It's been involved in an accident some weeks ago
and Barry suspects it's a danger to the public
with these sharp edges.
Barry's not sure if the car can be prohibited,
and he's waiting for traffic officers to arrive and check the vehicle.
If he's wrong, he'll have delayed the driver for nothing
on one of the city's busiest streets.
Finally, it's the traffic officers.
They'll now have to decide if the car is roadworthy.
If you'd have hit any pedestrian with that,
they'd be instantly shredded.
That is absolutely dangerous.
Barry was right - this car has dangerous faults.
"Dangerous body parts at his front and near-side quarter wing
"and head lamp cluster.
"Has both plastic and metal sharp edges,
"likely to cause more injury than necessary."
Not impressed at all.
The traffic team are clear about what happens now.
The vehicle has to be taken off the road.
It cannot be put back on the road until it is repaired
and then the driver will be reported for certain driving offences.
The traffic officers give the driver the bad news.
He'll have to pay for a recovery vehicle
and get his car taken to a mechanic for fixing and that's not all.
He could get a £100 fine and three points,
or if they think it's serious enough,
he'll be called before the court to answer for the offence.
This is a dangerous vehicle off the road.
As you can see, Oxford Street is just over there.
Loads of people walking around.
We've just made that area that little bit safer.
The dangerous car is finally leaving the street in the only safe way -
up on the bed of a tow truck,
so there's no risk to people at street level.
Barry's firm but fair approach has paid dividends.
But he's not always so gentle when it comes to people breaking the law.
Last year, when police were chasing a drug dealer,
Barry saw him hiding in this West End store...
The suspect has been found, lost sight of, found again,
lost sight of and eventually disappears altogether.
I've seen him and myself and a special constable ran at him
and obviously tackled him into the display cabinet,
which was unfortunately unavoidable.
He's been searched and he's had several wraps of heroin
that he's stuffed into his mouth.
It's earned him the nickname "Barry the Bulldozer".
But whether helping individuals in trouble or bringing down criminals,
Barry is happy to do whatever has to be done.
Back out on Oxford Street,
Barry's shift continues.
And it's not long before a call comes in that could be serious.
Barry gets moving.
Later, we find out who's responsible.
To stay on top when it comes to tourists,
Oxford Street spares no expense.
Which is why it's invested in a team of these.
They're welcome ambassadors,
whose job it is to help visitors get where they want to go.
We need to know actually everything people ask you.
These stylish street assistants are out and about every day,
giving information on anything and everything...
-Hello, how can I help?
-Hi! What exactly do you do?
..in dozens of languages.
HE SPEAKS PORTUGUESE
HE SPEAKS ITALIAN
Being a good ambassador is about embracing the theatre of the job
and that means getting into character.
And a big part of that is the uniform,
the epitome of a city gent.
As a welcome ambassador, appearance is everything.
We wear a three-piece suit and a bowler hat.
It's one of those traditionally English articles of clothing.
It just helps to put that little bit of a sheen on the whole operation.
And if he's to play the part successfully,
Ambassador Tony's uniform needs to look its best.
After all, he's going to be the image of the street
for hundreds of thousands of visitors to take home.
But truth be told, Tony's bowler's in a bad way.
My hat's looking a little bit worn at the moment.
They start off quite rigid, the felt is quite hard,
but after a while,
they tend to soften
and they need to be replaced.
Tony's come to a local milliner
to get himself measured up for a new bowler
that will fit on his considerable head.
I've got somewhere between a large and an extra-large,
so I need to get either an extra-large
that needs to be padded out,
or I need to get a large that needs to be slightly stretched.
Milliner Georgina has been making hats for over a decade.
Let's just check your head size.
Yeah, it's definitely an extra-large.
It's full of brains, that's why.
Yeah, that's what I constantly say, all the time.
Georgina tests it out with a display model from the shop.
So how does that feel?
-I think it's good.
-I think it might have a little bit of room.
-A bit a wobble sideways.
OK, well, I'll do an order for that
-and I'll send an e-mail over to the office for you.
Although she'll adjust Tony's new hat for him,
Georgina won't be making it.
For that, she'll have to go from Oxford Street to Oxfordshire,
where Christys' Hats is based.
It's over 200 years old
and along with keeping the Metropolitan Police in helmets,
they're the only company making bowlers in the traditional way.
Steve Clarke is the boss.
What we have here are some of the wonderful old machines.
These machines are 50, 80, 100 years old.
Did the job beautifully then and realistically,
there are no better machines for making hats like this even now.
Now you have the basic shape of the crown,
so that shape will be remembered, if you like, by the hood.
Today, the factory's concentrating on making other styles of hats
and putting the finishing touches to Tony's bowler.
It will have been made with the traditional methods,
but with one key difference.
What happens to it is it gets soaked in a mixture of shellac
and denatured alcohol
and that then gets drawn over a block,
so the hood is drawn over a block in order to give it its shape,
then it's baked so that it stiffens beautifully in an oven,
nice and gently and what you end up with
is that wonderful stiff finish that everybody recognises in a bowler.
The team select a bowler in Tony's size.
Currently, we're just finishing off the bowler, putting a lining in.
The sweatband's already in.
And there you go.
What you have here is a finished bowler hat.
A week later, Tony's back with Georgina to try on his new hat.
He'll be wearing it every day from now on,
so making sure it fits comfortably is important.
First of all, Georgina makes a key adjustment.
So what we do is we just take off the standard black band
and we replace it with the band in the colour
that matches the Oxford Street branding,
so that the welcome people are instantly visible.
Tony takes advantage of the wait to work on a new look.
Yeah, that's more like it.
Then the moment of truth.
Want to just pop that on?
Do you think maybe you need a little bit under there?
Maybe a little bit under the sides,
but it sits quite nicely at the front and back.
Georgina adds some padding under the leather sweatband.
-How does that feel now? Is that OK?
-Yeah, it feels good.
-Looking good, Tony.
I feel more aerodynamic.
Yeah, it's great. You get a new hat and you feel reinvigorated.
It feels good, it's nice and tight. Not too tight,
just nice and comfortable. You know it's not going to get blown off.
It feels good, I feel good,
it gives you a new lease of life.
Now all he's got to do is see how it fares
on Europe's busiest shopping street.
-That turning there, that's Argyle Street.
-I love your hat.
Down there, second turning on the left, second turning on the right.
-Do you like my hat?
-It's pretty cool.
-I think they look like they belong here -
brings a bit of the olden days back to London. It looks nice.
-Hey, man, how's it going?
-Just north of Oxford Street,
Johnny is back in the saddle and dodging pedestrians and taxis
as he tries to hit his target
of making a minimum of 20 deliveries a day.
-It's a red light.
Since their heyday in the '80s and '90s, when there were thousands,
the number of cycle couriers in London has declined
to only a few hundred.
High-speed internet has replaced much of their work,
but for some clients with something physical needing urgent delivery,
they're still the only option.
Cycling at speed through London is a dangerous job.
Nine cycle couriers are known to have died on the roads
in the last 30 years.
You hear on a weekly basis that somebody's walked out
in front of a courier, a black taxi has opened up a door
on a bike rider, so it can be a bit of a jungle.
Martin can't spend long worrying,
as his own workload increases with a flurry of orders.
Negative, sir, negative. I haven't got a signature.
2-1-1 is just asking how we're getting on.
We're getting quite busy this afternoon now.
Friday afternoon is always frantic as businesses move packages
before the weekend and with so much to do,
Martin's instructions to Johnny are getting more and more complicated.
Going to have to spin you around, mate, will have to spin you around.
If I knew the job was there, I would have sent it down to you earlier.
I'm going to go that way and he's sent me to pick up that way
with a job going further that way.
I've still got one over there, so doing a bit of a loop.
Obviously, he's not a happy bunny,
but that's Johnny being spun around and doing this one.
Johnny has three parcels in his bag waiting for delivery,
but with the clock ticking, he's being made to wait for pick-up
by the current client because their parcel isn't ready.
It gets frustrating sometimes.
Once you've got a load of stuff on board,
you want to just carry on moving, keep going.
But while Johnny's going nowhere, for Martin, the jobs are piling up.
A very urgent one coming, going down to Companies House,
so Bravo 2-0-8, 2-0-8.
This goes a little bit out of your way,
but obviously it's for a top-end client
and it's going to Companies House,
so I'm going to need someone on this who knows what they're doing.
Customers for whom an hour door to door is simply too slow
can pay extra for priority delivery,
bumping their package to the top of the queue.
Johnny's got to get to the pick-up location and take the parcel
to its destination, Companies House, within half an hour,
but that's two miles away
and he's still stuck waiting just off Oxford Street in Kingly Street.
Yeah, 2-0-8, Kingly Street, Kingly Street.
I've just had a tap on the shoulder. That one's cancelled.
Roger, yeah. I was just waiting for him to bring it,
but they haven't brought it, so yep, I'll carry on, Roger.
That means Johnny can get on with
his priority Companies House delivery.
From where Johnny was, he'll be able to pick up in 5, 10 minutes,
drop time of that is about 15. Yes, we're cutting it tight,
but this is why they pay extra for the service.
Proving once more that the quickest way around the city is pedal power,
Johnny makes it to the pick-up point just in time.
-Thanks a lot, see you later.
-But when he gets there,
it turns out there's not just one priority package for him to deliver.
I've got two priorities in fairly different locations.
One within half an hour would be fine,
but a struggle with both of them, but I'll do my best.
A premium-rate client, a high-end client is paying the money
for this job and he was the only person available to do the job.
We need to pull it out the hat for these people.
Johnny has to put his skills to the test again,
but weaves through Oxford Street traffic in time
to drop off the first priority within the time limit.
He's then got to sprint to Companies House for the second.
Yeah, the traffic's pretty bad, so at this stage, I'm late.
Despite arriving a few minutes after the promised half-hour slot,
the documents are delivered safely
and Johnny can take it a bit easier,
delivering his last few non-priority packages.
And the good news is it looks like he's surpassed his 20-job target.
Thanks very much for that, yeah?
And thanks for sorting out those premiums as well.
-Done me a right favour there, Rog.
-I kept on getting jobs.
Done over 25. Didn't feel like hard work today, it felt like fun.
It's been a manic Friday for Martin and his riders,
delivering over 800 parcels.
He and Johnny are part of a force that goes unnoticed
by most of the street's visitors, but one that's crucial
to keeping Oxford Street and the area around it working.
Anything and everything can happen on Oxford Street
and nearing the end of his shift,
PC Barry Nicholls is responding to an emergency.
Let's go, mate.
Just off the street, a pregnant lady has called to say
there are men on the roof of her flat.
Barry is burning shoe rubber to get there.
Barry arrives and with other officers,
goes up to the woman's flat.
She doesn't want to be filmed...
..but lets the officers out onto her balcony.
Where are they?
Yeah, I can hear someone.
They see several men on the roof.
-It's the police.
-Guys, just come down here for a second, yeah?
-MAN ON ROOF:
-What is it?
-It's the police.
-Yeah, we live here.
-You live there?
It's not a break-in. The men are squatters in the building next door.
The problem is there's a lady here, she's heavily pregnant
and she's very upset by what you've done.
-You've scared her a little bit.
-Oh, sorry, but...
It's no good saying sorry now. Just don't come back this way.
Firstly, you could fall off and break your neck and secondly,
there's a woman crying in here.
Anyone else up there?
-Yeah, there are people...
-Can you get them down as well, please?
Since squatting in residential properties was banned in 2012,
squatters have been concentrating on empty commercial properties
and in an area like this, anything vacant is tasty pickings for them.
The men ran across the woman's roof
to access the property they're squatting in.
Barry's not impressed.
The occupants of this address here are coming out of what they claim
to be their accommodation and climbing up onto the roof.
It's blatant to see they've been shimmying along here as well
and for their own safety,
it's really incredibly dangerous, a long drop.
If he was to fall off there, I doubt he'd survive, really.
But Barry's main concern is with the woman inside the flat.
Very distressing, she's got strangers outside her window.
She doesn't expect that, she's pregnant.
No-one wants that
and yeah, I for one can fully understand
why she'd be distressed about it.
-The main thing is you.
Don't worry about them. As you can see,
-all of us are here for you.
So hopefully that'll be the end of them hopping onto your balcony.
My colleague here has spoken to them,
he's given them some words of advice.
If it happens again, call us again, we'll come out again
and we'll deal with it as we see fit.
Thankfully, it's not an attempted break-in,
so Barry is happy that he's done all he can.
And with the nightlife in full swing,
he thinks he's needed back on Oxford Street.
We've let them know the effects
their behaviour is having on the lady.
Hopefully, that should be the end of it and if they come back across,
then we'll come back out and we'll take firmer action.
It's been an interesting day for Barry -
everything from drunks to deathtraps.
Now he can head off duty,
but tomorrow could bring even stranger fare.
An Oxford Street policeman has a shift to remember as he takes on dangerous cars, drunks and rooftop intruders.
The programme also takes a look into the secret world of bicycle couriers.