Observational documentary series. The undercover police team on Oxford Street crack down on distraction thieves trying a new trick, a shoulder roll.
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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,
..and busiest stations.
Sorry, guys. Stand back for me.
What does it take to keep it running 24 hours a day...
It's the 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 - distraction thieves on Oxford Street.
The police track them down.
If you're big enough to go out stealing,
you're big enough to wear those nice bracelets, do you understand?
It's ooh-la-la at Debenhams as a French make-up line launches.
Yes, it's strange!
And Oxford Street from above.
Oxford Street attracts a lot of visitors with money to spend
in its shops, restaurants, flagship stores and fashion chains.
It's a very safe place to shop
and the job of keeping it that way falls to the Oxford Street
police team, Orb, and in particular their plain-clothes squad.
At the moment, their priority is the small number of thieves trying
to take advantage of the street's attractions.
There's upward of 200,000 people passing through Oxford Street
every day and the pickings can be from a £10 wallet
to, you know, there's people walking around carrying £50,000
in envelopes in bags, so when there's that kind of money
sloshing around on Oxford Street, you're always going to get that
kind of criminal coming down and trying to get it.
On the street, thieves can use cunning distractions
and work with accomplices to get whatever they can and when police
get a call about pickpockets loose on the street, they respond quickly.
And today is one of those occasions.
Paul Penrose of the plain-clothes team is in a desperate hurry to
get onto the street, where he's had word a crime has just been committed.
Yeah, OK. Right. I'm coming, I'm coming.
Paul has had a phone call from a store detective on Oxford Street
who believes he's just witnessed a robbery.
The store detective is following four suspected pickpockets
as they prowl the street, and he's called Paul in to come
and find him and take over the surveillance.
-But Paul can't find him.
-Where are you?
Over the phone, the store detective is trying to give Paul
the suspects' positions,
but they're constantly moving and Paul is trying to catch up.
He said he was at Jessops, opposite the Plaza -
that's why I sprinted down here.
He keeps saying they're doubling back and they're not.
He's saying they're heading down this way, doubling back to there and he says...
Finally, Paul makes contact with the security guard.
-Sorry. Right. Where are we? Who are we looking at?
-Them four. Them four.
-He's already dipped.
He's trying to dip the Chinese, he went like that.
-Did you see him actually touch...
-The one in the blue, yeah.
Right. So I can nick her?
The store detective says he's just witnessed a gang of four
trying to take a man's wallet. Paul calls for assistance.
Right, get up here, we've got four.
He's witnessed them trying to do one dip,
so I've got enough to nick the girl, apparently.
We're outside, I've got four.
Paul's over the road from the gang, who are highlighted here.
I'm going to have to go in and start pulling them in,
because they're on the move again.
He crosses the road to tail them.
And with the gang just yards in front of him, they strike again.
Our camera's view is obscured by other passers-by,
but Paul believes he's just seen the gang trying to take
a purse from a bag using a common distraction technique
known in the trade as a shoulder roll.
If I was to bump into someone,
someone's very much aware that I've bumped into them.
If, however, there's two or three people all around me, I'm not sure
who's bumped into me and while someone's bumping into
my right shoulder, my left pocket is being picked.
So my attention is drawn to my right shoulder, to the person there.
The actual thief is probably behind me, putting their hand in the bag.
Right, hang on. Yeah, I'm doing it, I'm doing it.
This shopper notices and the attempt fails, but Paul's seen enough.
Even on his own, he decides it's time to move in.
We'll see how he gets on later.
Guys, guys, guys, guys, guys! Listen to me.
I'm in charge here.
Beauty and cosmetic products are big business in Britain,
worth £17 billion a year
and nowhere is more important for sales than Oxford Street.
It's the first thing you see
entering one of the street's department stores,
and competition is fierce.
Launching a new brand into the market can be tough.
But today, at Debenhams, one make-up company is trying to do just that.
And being a French brand, it plans to enter the market with a splash
by using a little je ne sais quoi.
They're taking over one of the store's front windows to do
live body painting with models. Making sure the launch goes to plan
is the job of visual supervisor Emily Gaffney.
There's going to be live painting, live movement, live dancing.
Very different to anything we've normally done before.
We're going to have quite a crowd.
After months of planning, it's Emily's job to make sure the window
is ready for the body painting event.
It's just turned eight.
We've got till ten till the models are due into the windows,
but we don't like to have any of our team in the windows past half nine
when the store opens.
Perfection is Emily's watchword,
but she's already been thrown a curveball this morning.
The window interior has been painted black to showcase
the performance, but the introduction of white electric fans
and cables is threatening to ruin the effect.
-Have you got any black extension leads?
-No, we haven't.
We might be able to get some black tape.
I know it's small, but something like a white extension cable
just throws the whole look off.
The models might not be due in the window for another two hours,
but what the team have planned is a little more complicated than
eyeliner and lipstick.
They've had to get started early.
It's a good day.
I like my face today.
But, back at the window,
Emily's black performance space is again under threat.
Messy workmen have left dusty footprints all over the floor.
-Are you OK?
-Yeah, I'm trying to clean the floor.
Emily and the team get busy taping up the white cables
and clearing the floor.
But ladders have left deep scratches in it, which also need covering.
I'm going to go get some paint and just touch up all these dents.
She heads to the back office for some paint.
There's a reason she's taking such pains.
Shop windows are a store's most valuable advertising space and on
Oxford Street, shops have only a few seconds to catch a passer-by's eye.
The strength of a window display can be
the difference between the success and failure of the product.
Emily heads back to the window, but she's running over time
and by now the shop is open.
I've just had to walk past a stream of customers with a pot full of paint.
It's not got too busy yet, so it's fine.
The visual merchandising team aren't the ones supposed to be drawing
attention to themselves.
They're arriving in about 20 minutes, so we're just going to
finish these last pictures off, have a final sweep and then vacate.
Finally, half an hour late, the window is ready
and Emily can head upstairs to check on the models' preparations.
As well as the live body painting,
there'll be a dance performance in store and the models are warming up.
It's all very dramatic. They're going to dance in super-high heels.
On y va. Let's go.
The time for rehearsals has come to an end.
OK, let's go.
It's now the main event.
Later, strike a pose - the models get painted
and the French take over.
For me, it's really amazing.
Earlier, we saw Oxford Street undercover officer Paul Penrose
tailing a gang of pickpockets.
Paul believes he's seen the gang try and take
a purse from a shopper's bag using a common distraction technique.
While someone's bumping into my right shoulder,
my left pocket is being picked.
Having seen enough, he moves in.
But there are four suspects and only one police officer.
-Paul will have to single-handedly hold them.
-Guys, all stay here.
-Guys, come here, please. Police.
-Yes, no problem.
-Please, please, come here. You just stand behind him.
Right, all four of you now.
OK, gentlemen, stand there just while I talk to you, OK?
You stand behind him.
Do not move anywhere, all right? You understand?
I don't care whether he's nine years.
I'm cuffing two people up because there's me and there's four of you.
So if you're big enough to go out stealing,
you're big enough to wear those nice bracelets, do you understand?
With the suspect gang detained,
Paul calls the shoppers back to check nothing has been taken.
The shoppers seem confused, so Paul checks with the store detective.
Which one did you see do it? He just tried to get that girl there, yeah?
-Listen, I saw the girl turn around, all right?
-Listen to me.
-Don't be a liar, please.
-Guys, guys, guys, guys, guys! Listen to me.
You shout, if you raise your voice, all right,
you will go straight into a police car, all right?
Probably via the floor. I'm in charge here.
This man... I have seen you coming down,
one of you just tried to steal out of that girl's bag, which was you.
-That's why she turned round and grabbed at her bag.
And one gang member is insulting the store detective,
who is British-Asian.
Right, you are under arrest now. Racially aggravated words.
Paul needs to keep control.
Shut up! Let me work out what is going on.
Let's assume that I am used to people like you telling
lies to me. Let's assume I have seen with my own eyes what you did.
Let's assume that this man, who I trust
because I've dealt with before, has seen what you've done.
With this situation turning ugly,
Paul's glad to see more officers arrive.
And with the plain-clothes team present,
they take a look for stolen goods.
The store detective witnessed an attempted robbery earlier,
but one of the gang is still being abusive to him.
Mate, no, no, no. Final time - do not use that language again.
Do you understand? I'm telling you now, if you call him that again...
There is no stolen property but a records check reveals this man
has a previous conviction for shoplifting.
With the gang in custody, it is job done for the store detective.
But the suspects are in for bad news.
You are going to be arrested for attempted theft.
You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence
if you do not mention, when questioned,
something which you later rely on in court.
And the rest of the gang are suspects for both the robbery
the store detective witnessed and the attempt Paul saw.
The allegation is the witness has seen you all crowd round
the man while this gentleman has tried to take his bag, OK?
When I have seen you down here, I've seen you try and take the bag.
Because you have all tried to distract the man,
you are all going to be arrested on suspicion of attempted theft
as well, because you were all involved in the theft.
Police transport has arrived.
This vehicle will take two of the suspects to the station.
Paul hopes that this man will think about what he is saying.
Just tell the truth and it'll be dealt with easier, all right?
The quicker we get there, the better, all right?
Processing the prisoners could take a while...
..which is time Paul was hoping to spend elsewhere.
But, in the back, these two are looking at porridge.
The attempted theft has a potential 12-week sentence
if they are convicted.
This arrest was tricky but Paul is pleased with the result.
This is the kind of thing that we are looking for everyday.
Really, really pleased we've got them.
We are in the process of booking them in.
From there, justice hopefully will be served.
But, as far as a result for the team goes, this is a really,
really good one. It is kind of unique.
Normally we will catch the odd ones and twos,
but this was a gang of four.
I haven't seen that myself on the street.
I have seen people working in pairs.
The only way I can describe it, they were roaming like a pack.
The offence that I saw, they had gone into the female's bag,
they'd caught her doing it, but they just regrouped
and just carried on the street like nothing was happening.
They were just hunting as a pack.
They just carried on, went after the next victim.
The gang were interviewed, charged and bailed.
But that's not the end of the story.
Not long after this,
more evidence came to light relating to the gang, including this.
It's a photograph taken by a member of the public from a bus
who spotted the gang acting suspiciously.
She took this photograph just as the suspect pulled
something from the rucksack of the shopper in front of him.
Paul thinks it's key evidence.
This is down on Piccadilly about 30 minutes before we encountered them.
They're coming up on the two victims,
who are all looking at the bus because the witness is
hammering on the bus window to get their attention.
Once again, you can see how the four have come close,
so as he makes an attempt, if they turn around they are just
aware of a lot of people around them.
They won't know who has done it.
And I believe from this picture that he has got a phone in his hand,
where he has already taken it from the bag.
Later, on the back of the new evidence,
Paul goes to arrest the gang again.
Staff at Debenhams are getting ready for live body painting
in their front window to announce the launch
of a new line of French cosmetics.
Emily has prepared an all-black window for maximum effect.
Now it is time for the models and make-up artists to step up.
Body painting in the window is an Oxford Street first.
Emily is confident she has done enough to get one up
on the neighbouring stores.
In respect of the other stores on the high street,
I think we are doing quite well at the moment.
In order to make sure we get as many customers as possible
coming into our store as opposed to others, the window is the first
point where we can sort of use as a platform to sell our products.
But it looks like Emily's attention to detail might have been overkill.
Can't actually see the floor, but at least we have aimed for perfection.
The models and artists have only been in the window for a few minutes
and already a curious crowd has gathered.
Amazing, is what I first thought. Colourful. Good grief!
-He is a bit of a showman, your model.
-He is a bit.
I think he's enjoying himself.
It's really good, very unusual.
Especially your guy there, he's brilliant.
Even the staff are impressed.
Better than I think our imaginations could even dream.
The live body painting is causing quite a stir.
but funny sometimes.
I have no time to look at the street like that.
Yes, it's strange.
But the store is hoping to get more publicity than just passers-by.
They are hoping for a big media hit as well.
To add to the interest,
PR manager Cassandra Robinson has arranged for fashion photographer
Rankin to come along to lend a little extra stardust to proceedings.
It's Rankin's campaign photos that hang in the window.
-It's great, I love it.
-It looks really cool, right?
No, it looks fantastic.
I told them the body painting would go down brilliantly in the UK.
The hubbub on the street shows no sign of coming down.
A bit chaotic but actually this is exactly what we want.
We want all of this hype, we want all this excitement.
This is perfect. It is absolutely perfect.
Emily and her team have put their all into the window display
but there's something else planned for inside the store that
perhaps only the French could have dreamt up.
Let me please introduce the most exuberant live body art show
from Make Up For Ever UK.
DANCE MUSIC PLAYS
Dany Sanz is the founder of the make-up company.
Oxford Street is a very iconic place,
so to do body painting and a show like that for me is really amazing.
The show has gone down well inside.
Outside, there has been a crowd all morning.
It is now time for Cassandra to make sure everyone's hard work
is converted into column inches and picture spreads.
We've now got to get all the images back from our photo call,
get them into a press release and get them out to every single
news agency that ever existed in the world to try and get some coverage.
-Splash the news everywhere.
I think the team put a lot of effort in.
We've had overnights all week.
A lot of painting, a lot of black paint - I'm still covered.
But, yeah, it was really good to see the windows
It was a spectacle Oxford Street is unlikely to forget in a hurry
and an escalation of the lengths the shops will go to
to outdo their rivals.
All that remains to be seen is how much of the fuss
will translate into sales.
Oxford Street attracts all sorts of visitors.
Some come from overseas, some from other parts of the UK,
and some from even more surprising directions.
Starting his journey to the street this morning is Jason Hawkes.
But he's beginning 23 miles away.
I've got a job up in town, so we are heading down to Redhill Aerodrome.
Jason's a professional aerial photographer.
Today, he's been commissioned by a marketing company to get
photographs of iconic Oxford Street shopping scenes from a helicopter.
It's his job to get the best-looking,
most impactful images he can.
Oxford Street's great,
a really interesting place to fly and there are so many people,
especially when you come over the top of Oxford Circus
and you see on the people pouring down into the Oxford Circus Tube
and things like that.
But this kind of photography isn't cheap.
Hire of the helicopter alone is £1,300 an hour.
It means the pressure's on Jason to get the shots the client wants.
I think you're going to be flying in TVHD,
which we're going to get out of the hanger and we will prep for you.
Jason checks his equipment.
When you're thousands of feet up, you need to be prepared.
We have a range of lenses, which I guess the longest
is about a 400mm lens.
So you can sit, you know, right at the edge here
and you can crop right in just to see the tops of people's head
or you can just take a really wide 20mm lens
and see the whole of the landscape.
And with his kit working well,
things are looking good for the shoot.
The weather is looking pretty good and if you look right
over to the horizon, you can see it is really nice and clear.
Jason's is not the only machine planning a trip
over the capital today and with Miles the pilot arriving,
it is time to get going.
Weather's good, air traffic is good, no restrictions.
-We are good to go.
Jason wears a harness to keep himself
and his equipment firmly inside the helicopter.
Once he's up in the sky,
he'll be opening the door to get his shots.
-Yeah, that looks good.
The A355 helicopter has a cruising speed of 140mph,
a ceiling of 11,000 feet
and a range of 437 miles.
Today, however, Jason and Miles are planning
on just over an hour's flying time.
And countryside soon becomes city as London's famous landmarks
hove into view.
Something exciting is going on in the Queen's back garden
and Jason can't resist a few snaps.
But he's not there just to admire the view.
After ten minutes, they near their destination.
They sweep past the city's famous financial district
and on to the major shopping districts of the West End.
The main shot I'm looking for, the kind of hero shot,
is a graphic top shot looking straight down.
So we're at Oxford Circus right now,
so I'm going to whack open this door and I'm going to lean out
a little bit and I'm going to get some shots looking straight down.
Oxford Circus is where two of London's great retail avenues meet -
Regent Street and Oxford Street.
It's also the key point for Jason's shoot today.
Time for Jason to earn his keep.
We are going to head up Oxford Street again
and I'm going to get some shots looking down
off the top of Selfridge's.
Miles is going to put it sideways and we're going to fly
sideways quite slowly the whole way back down again.
It is amazing how busy it always is.
When you look straight down, there's just hundreds of buses
always lined up and that always looks really dramatic.
And there's so much development going round here.
It's incredible how many buildings they tear down
and then put straight up again.
And, with that, Jason's job is done for the day.
He's been in the air and hour and a half
and taken hundreds of pictures, but now it is time to head for home.
It is lovely to see a city like this from above.
It looks beautiful and it is great to see how the images of what
it really looks like from up there. We got loads of nice shots today.
Really good job - a job well done, I think.
All in all, not a bad day at the office.
All right, cool, cheers.
Take care. Cheers.
Earlier, we saw Paul Penrose
of the Oxford Street plain-clothes police team
catch four suspected pickpockets dipping into bags.
The gang were charged and bailed,
but since then a new offence has come to light.
Now, this member of public has actually taken a picture of
the actual offence happening, which you can see quite clearly here
that he has got a phone in his hand
where he has already taken it from the bag.
Paul wants to charge the gang with the new offence
but, to do that, he has got to find them again.
So, this morning,
with the help of a uniform team from the Territorial Support Group,
he is on his way into the London suburbs to the address
the gang gave him when he arrested them before.
We are just going to go in, hopefully pick them up,
bring them back to the station and get them
charged with the secondary offences now.
Anywhere here, mate.
But Paul is very aware that the suspects may have
lied about their address.
Whether they will be there or not, he is about to find out.
The Territorial Support Group moves swiftly to the door.
A woman inside the house lets them in.
We have got 16 officers here
but we don't know how many people are in the building,
so we will generally come in as a group
to make sure that the place is safe.
-No-one up there?
OK, I'm just going to check the back garden.
A search turns up no sign of the suspects.
It certainly doesn't look like six people live here. For sure.
But Paul and the TSG don't give up easily.
These people are a bit of a burden, with all the thefts
that they're committing up town, and it would have been nice to get them.
Paul has evidence linking the suspects
to a second address at a London hotel.
Now, I know they were living there
because I saw a hotel receipt that he showed us.
He was trying to use it as a bail address.
The team head to the second address - a hotel above a betting shop.
OK, so we are going up into the hotel to the room in question now.
They head in in force, hoping for better luck.
There is no answer from inside. Rather than kick the door down...
Could you just open the door to 107, please? That would be great.
..they call the manager.
No, I think they have left for the day.
It is a disappointment. The officers search the room,
but it is soon apparent these aren't the suspects' belongings.
The team show photos of the suspects to the manager.
This one, this one, the lady.
-Do they live here?
-They left, I think, two weeks ago.
-Thank you, mate.
-All right, thanks a lot, meat.
They were here, but it is now clear they are long gone.
And there is a reason the manager remembers the suspects so well.
About two weeks ago, they fight me, they punch me.
Oh, right, really? You've reported it, have you?
Yeah, we phoned the police, they come,
and after that, two days after,
-they left here.
-No problem. Thanks a lot, mate.
Good. Take care. Bye-bye.
For Paul, it is disappointing, but all is far from lost.
It may well be that they have fled the country, which is good news
in some respects to the taxpayer, obviously, that they are gone.
When they come back and if they come back, we will be able to
pick them up straight away as soon as they come into the country again.
So they are not going to get away with it -
we are going to win this battle.
The gang are already bailed to appear in court
on the earlier charges, but Paul thinks the likelihood
is they will stay out of the country.
But if the suspects do choose to come back and try their luck,
they can be sure Paul and his team will be ready
and waiting to give them alternative accommodation.
The undercover police team crack down on distraction thieves trying a new trick, a shoulder roll.
At Debenhams, a French make-up line launches, with live body painting in the shop's windows.
Plus a look at Oxford Street from above with a specialist aerial photographer.