Observational documentary series. The undercover Oxford Street police team take on table-surfers, distraction criminals who target bars and restaurants.
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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 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.
The Oxford Street police crack down on table surfing -
distraction thefts from bars and cafes.
Just be aware of your belongings cos they'll be targeting you.
And window cleaning on ropes.
This is the best bit - the point of no return.
Oxford Street may be the home of shopping in the West End,
but the streets and courtyards immediately around it
are the place to eat and drink.
There's everything from Michelin stars to frozen ice bars
and the best restaurants get busy from early in the evening.
Making sure it's a safe place to eat and drink
is the job of the Oxford Street police team, known as ORB,
and tonight, PC Andy Pescott is on patrol, doing just that.
At the moment, he's on the lookout
for a priority crime known as table surfing.
This is when thieves target bars and restaurants
and attempt to distract their customers,
then steal items like phones or cash from their tables.
It's a problem throughout UK city centres.
And out on patrol...
From 3279. Have you got a direction of travel, please?
Negative. No direction of travel at the moment.
..Andy gets a call to just such a crime.
Flower seller's just stolen a phone on Hanover Street.
It's only a few hundred yards away, so Andy hurries.
But at the location of the robbery, there's no sign of anyone suspicious.
Andy decides to take a look round the area,
but the description he was given over the radio is basic.
It was a possible European male, dark clothing.
This time round, it seems the thief is long gone.
Yeah, re the flower seller, Slug and Lettuce,
I've done a quick area search from Hanover Street,
Brook Street, South Molton Lane, South Molton Street - no trace.
Andy decides to warn drinkers at the local pubs
that there's a table surfer about and it seems he's been seen.
How long ago and where?
I would say it was about an hour ago and right there. He had flowers.
Yeah. So, basically, he's offering you flowers
but when he puts them down, he'll take your phone.
For tonight, at least, Andy's thief is gone.
But the ORB team know there are table surfers out there
and they're determined to stop them. With that in mind,
tonight, other plain-clothes officers have been covertly hidden
in various pubs and restaurants,
in an operation overseen by PC Darren Bond.
And just off Oxford Street, Darren sees two men
he thinks are behaving suspiciously. He decides to tail them.
I've seen a couple of guys.
I noticed one of them outside one of the restaurants up the road
and he was looking around a lot before going in.
I've now noticed them going towards another restaurant
a few minutes later and, again, very edgily looking around
before looking to go into a restaurant.
Maybe they're looking for bags to take.
They're walking off again now from this restaurant.
The only option is to covertly follow the two men.
They soon head into another restaurant.
Darren follows them in and decides it's time to sit down on the job.
-So, it won't be eating,
-it'll just be watching somebody for a second.
-I see, OK.
But after a few moments, Darren is happy
that the two men were just being fussy
over which restaurant to choose.
You'll get ones that'll sit down in a restaurant
but you're looking not so much...
Sometime you think that's more innocent
but it can be sometimes they're looking to do something
next to them, but these guys, I can't see anything for them
to take where they are, so they're probably all right.
But, elsewhere, there has been a table surf and Darren gets word
that one of his covertly hidden officers thinks she's foiled it.
A couple of the team have deployed to one of our hot spots
and are looking for bag thieves and what we call table surfers
and they've been looking for that type of offence
and have witnessed one, so we've got one detained.
Later, Darren catches up with his team and a table surfer.
It's 6.30am on Oxford Street and, at the moment, all the shops are shut.
This is no time for a bit of retail therapy,
but it IS the time when the street does its housework.
Oxford Street, more than most roads, needs to keep up appearances,
which is why Craig Deamer and his team of window cleaners
are here bright and early.
Today, this office block is in their sights.
The owners want the windows cleaned before the shops open their doors
in a couple of hours' time.
This being Oxford Street,
cleaning the windows takes a little more than a rag and a bucket.
With no space for erecting a platform or machinery,
they're going to have to do this one from the top down.
It's the middle of Oxford Street.
It's going to be very busy in the next half an hour or so.
Our biggest concern is the weather. It's predicted thunderstorms later.
So, they quickly head to the roof to get started.
-They're taking the easy way up.
But it'll be the hard way down. They're going abseiling.
With such extreme window cleaning ahead,
they need specialist equipment.
These ropes can take the weight of five fully-grown men,
so there's no concern over them snapping,
but Craig has another worry.
Any rubbing of the rope on a sharp edge will just cut the rope.
-That's our main concern.
-Fortunately, they have a solution.
We use Kevlar matting.
Kevlar is five times stronger than steel and will prevent any disasters.
Craig and Andy will be doing the first run.
Back on the ground,
trainee rope window cleaner, Sean, will be keeping an eye on the clock.
He doesn't know it yet, but he's also going to be having a go himself.
The shop will be open at nine o'clock, so we've got to get
these two front elevations done before the shop opens.
But, even with all safety measures taken,
the experienced hands are apprehensive.
If you ain't nervous, you're more likely to make more mistakes.
And with one last text to his mum, it's time to clean some windows.
This is the best bit - the point of no return.
As they progress down, those Kevlar safety mats are going their job.
And the windows certainly need plenty of attention.
The street has near-permanent bus and taxi traffic, a hoard of pigeons
and this particular building is next to the giant building works
at the Crossrail site. This could take a lot of washing-up liquid.
Cleaning the windows, come up to the bars -
bit difficult to get your arm behind.
Apart from that, great views, great scenery.
With the seasoned pros getting the windows above the alley and doorway
finished in time for the shops to open,
Craig has a surprise for trainee Sean.
-Right, Sean, it's your turn, buddy.
-How do you feel about it, bud?
-Looking forward to it.
-All right, go steady.
I'll be down the bottom if you need me.
It's not trainee Sean's first time up the rope,
but Oxford Street has more distractions than most
and with the rain due within the hour,
this will be a test of his ability to focus and get the job done.
-He fancies his chances.
-It's a lot to take in.
You've got really concentrate and knuckle down in your training course
and then that all shows when you're out on the ropes.
But now's the moment to keep his cool.
He's tying the ropes that will take his weight once he's hanging
-over the edge of the building.
-This looks shorter.
-Between the two eights, where you had the other eight.
-Look like you're shaking a bit.
-SEAN LAUGHS NERVOUSLY
Excited. Looking forward to going over the edge
-and doing some window cleaning.
-Down on the ground,
Craig is also waiting for Sean to get on with the job.
When we do this bit and go over the edge,
the adrenaline kicks in and it's great.
Sean is now suspended over Oxford Street,
at the mercy of the ropes he tied himself.
But Andy is watching his every step.
Try and make sure your rope protector's done up nice and secure.
It's now up to Sean and Andy to clean the rest of the windows
-and divvy up the work.
-I can't get...
-You can't get there?
Is it just too much of a stretch for you? I'll get your bit of window...
And by the end of the drop,
Sean is confidently cleaning windows like an old pro.
-Well done. Good effort.
-You've done really well.
-Bit more swinging and you'll be fine.
-I really enjoyed that.
Getting over the edge was a bit of a buzz and adrenalin,
then coming down, yeah, it was good.
But with several hundred stores on Oxford Street
needing their windows cleaned,
there's a steady stream of work for the boys.
But that's a job for another day.
We can drive away, happy that the job's been completed on time.
HE TOOTS HORN
Oxford Circus Tube station.
Tens of thousands of people pass through this ticket hall each day,
making it the busiest station on the network.
And for staff based here, how they interact with passengers
and the quality of their customer service is everything...
Northbound Bakerloo, platform four.
..as new girl Sinead knows only too well.
It's a job you have to have quite a thick skin for.
You have to be quite bubbly, you can't be too shy.
Customers are always in need of help,
they're always in need of directions they're always in need of help
with the machines, tickets or just general information.
It's a fantastic job and I'm glad I'm here.
I need to go to Kensington.
Change at Victoria for the Circle line
and that will take you to High Street Kensington.
And it's a good job she's prepared
because tonight's an important one for the station.
Transport for London are modernising the Tube service
and this includes closing ticket offices
so customers can only buy tickets from machines.
The plan is this will free up staff
to deal with passengers face-to-face on the station floor.
But some staff are nervous, so today, at Oxford Circus,
they're doing a trial closure.
Team leader Mustak is overseeing the experiment.
Today, all our staff will be coming
and helping our customers on the machines.
Staff realise that technology has taken over
so they have to utilise that more and they understand that,
but some staff are nervous.
One staff member who will be coming out of the office today
is station assistant Stan Neill.
-He's worked the ticket office here for nearly 30 years.
I think the ticket office should have been kept open, my own opinion,
because it's nice to help people at the window,
especially tourists, and we're coming to the busy summer season,
so that should be fun and games outside.
I hope it all goes well, that's all I hope.
They're about to find out.
-You're giving me £10.
-Stan, make that your last one, yeah?
So, I'm going to close now and get outside amongst all the people.
You deal with the two machines here, three machines.
This is your guideline, so if you're not sure what to do,
-this tells you in there.
So, with a guidebook and some encouraging words,
staff now have an hour and a half of solid customer service
and no ticket office to hide away in.
It's just a trial this time, but in two weeks,
their jobs will be based permanently out on the ticket hall floor.
Mustak's team get stuck in.
It's £4.80 to Arsenal.
-Two children to Victoria, return.
-No, hang on.
The best ticket is a one-day travel card, OK?
-Is it cheaper than the return?
But it's not long before the team are faced
with a more complex ticket problem.
This man's monthly travel card is broken
and he needs to get it replaced.
I went to the ticket office to get it changed,
but it looks like it's closed.
Without a ticket office, Mustak's options are limited.
I can do it for two days
and then they will transfer the monthly to your new card.
Mustak can't issue a new monthly card from the machines available.
The man will have to make do with a two-day ticket
and contact customer services separately.
The ticket office was great last time.
This time there was no ticket office, so we'll see.
It's a far from ideal start for the closure trial
but while staff continue to get to grips with it,
other staff are about to put different customer service skills
to the test.
VIP, eastbound Central line.
-What number train, rear car? Over.
-Train number 002. Over.
On my way. Out. I'm going to go and meet a VIP.
Gerry Haines, better known as the Colonel, has got a VIP to deal with.
VIP, in company parlance, means a visually impaired passenger.
A visually impaired passenger is going to need help
being led from one platform to another. That's where I come in.
While he heads to the platform,
up top, Sinead has got herself a traveller
in need of a different kind of assistance.
This man has had a few drinks
and staff believe he slipped on the stairs and banged his head.
Sinead takes him into the office. He could need medical help.
Later, VIPs, injuries and ticket issues are par for the course
as evening continues in the ticket hall.
Outside a busy bar full of evening drinkers,
the Oxford Street police team have made an arrest
and they think it's a big score.
One of Darren's most recent recruits has radioed him
to say she's just bagged herself a table surfer.
Yeah, so my colleagues who's got this body
was recently on our training programme
and has done a number of shifts working with us.
Darren is soon on the scene. This is the suspect.
He's having his picture taken and circulated
to see if any other officers recognise his face.
The guy's been seen to approach the table
with four young ladies having a drink
with their phones on the table.
He's put an A4 piece of paper across the table
that has, scrawled on it in some foreign language, some writing.
It doesn't seem to be particularly legible, but that doesn't matter,
cos that means the person has to look at it more intently
to see what they're actually reading in front of them.
This is the paper. It's part of a cunning ruse,
but Darren's covert officer spotted what was happening.
Myself and Richard have been out today in plain clothes.
We've been in All Bar One, sitting by the table.
I noticed this gentleman approach some females
with a bit of paper in his hand
and put his hand under the bit of paper
and I could clearly see him pick up the phone, which amounts to theft.
So, we stopped him straightaway and he's been arrested for theft.
Excellent result. Really pleased with it.
The training course helps officers to develop the skills
to spot when individuals might be up to no good.
This shows that the training course really does work.
The arrested man seems a little bewildered at what's happened
and doesn't want to try his English.
HE SPEAKS IN NATIVE TONGUE
With the suspect taken in for interview,
the woman whose phone was nearly stolen is relieved
to still have her prize possession.
This is my iPhone and, obviously, it's a smartphone
and they're quite desirable, so a lot of people will try and get them.
He basically put that bit of paper on top of my phone,
trying to steal my phone and, luckily,
we managed to catch this and we got really lucky
because next to us, there were two police officers.
They blended extra well cos I would never have guessed
that they were police officers and I'm grateful that they were here.
It's one table surfer safely off the streets,
but there will be others out there.
Darren thinks the diners and drinkers of the West End
would do well to keep their eyes peeled.
Always ask yourself, "Why is this person approaching my table?
"Why are they talking to me? What are they doing with their hands?"
Just be aware of your belongings, your bags by your feet,
They're looking to target people in pubs, in cafes,
catch them unawares and be off with your personal property.
Don't allow them to.
Oxford Street's central location makes it the ideal place
for star-studded openings and product launches.
And that usually means there'll be a photo opportunity or two
with a famous celeb on the street.
And that's it. That's lovely.
That's great. That's lovely. Thank you, Anthea.
Today, an event is planned
with a soap actress appearing on the steps of a large department store
and that's good news for photographer Andy Barnes.
Michelle Keegan is turning up at House of Fraser.
She is number one FHM's sexiest women in the world.
Doing a big party tonight, but she's doing a launch of a clothing range
at House of Fraser, Oxford Street. I'm on my way.
Andy is a celebrity photographer who makes his living
being in the right place at the right time with a camera.
He's usually on or around Oxford Street
and thinks snaps of former Coronation Street star Michelle Keegan
are something he can sell to celebrity magazines.
Pictures of Michelle Keegan, at the moment, sell exceptionally well.
They are really good. They are like gold dust.
Andy's hoping to get an exclusive.
Cos I know so many people in the area now,
I get invited to events and parties.
This is really my manor, if you like.
But at House of Fraser, it's clear he's not the first pap on the scene.
-Do you know what time?
Andy gets to work.
First of all, he needs to find out
the state of play with the store itself.
Is this where the photocall's going to happen?
-Where's she going to...?
-Definitely for quarter past five?
The event's important for House of Fraser.
They're hoping the celebrity endorsement
will help them sell more of the clothing line.
To help gain publicity, they've roped off an area
on the front steps of the store for photographers.
Andy wants to see how far he can push for access.
Is there an opportunity to get any pictures inside at all?
My understanding is no.
It's a blow for Andy and, as he waits, competition is growing.
Andy's agency have got him accreditation from the store
to be in the photographer's pen but other paps are arriving
and getting the same access
without having agreed attendance in advance.
What's he doing?
No, he's not one of the accredited photographers. So, he's like..
He needs to stay out of the pen area.
So, I'm the one who's been accredited.
-Just give me one second.
I'm just making sure that I'm the one,
the photographer who actually does the photos
inside the press pen area.
But, despite Andy's protests,
it's decided the unaccredited photographer can stay.
He's been let in, so you've just got to run with it.
Definitely going to have to up the game now, without a doubt.
We're going to have to make sure we get the right images,
get them sent out ever so quickly.
It's now a straight fight to get the best pics and Andy's in his element.
I get a good little rush from doing this job.
It gives me a real buzz and that's why I really enjoy it
and that's why I decided to do what I do now.
Oxford Street is just one big, buzzy street.
A crowd is gathering to see what all the fuss is about.
Meanwhile, at the back of the store,
Michelle sneaks in through a side door.
Andy rushes for a look but he's too late.
She's gone straight in down that way.
He'll have to make do with the press pen,
but at least he's at the front, which matters,
because moments later, Michelle Keegan arrives
and Andy gets to work.
-Hi, Michelle, how are you doing? Michelle, look this way.
And, Michelle, looking this way, please. Lovely.
And, with his prime location, Andy can snap away.
This way, please. Lovely, thank you.
After one minute and 42 seconds of standing in front of a hoarding,
it's all over.
We got a nice, clean shot
and she was looking straight down the line at me,
so it was great. Very pleased.
And now the race is on to get the photos out and sold.
There's a big market for snaps like this
with the red-top newspapers and celebrity magazines.
But they want the pictures right away,
so Andy finds a spot nearby to upload his photos.
Ooh, look at that. That is a nice picture.
I'm sending them off to an agency
that I use a lot for all my celeb stuff.
Andy has high hopes for his afternoon on Oxford Street.
I can see that type of picture being used,
probably on the front page of something.
If that happens, Andy will make serious money
and he certainly thinks his day has been well spent.
Really pleased. Got my pictures sent off.
Fingers crossed and wait for the morning.
With that done, Andy heads off, ready for his next celebrity bash.
At the busiest station on the London Underground network, Oxford Circus,
staff are testing their customer service skills to the limit.
There's a practice closure of the ticket office,
so staff are having to show passengers
how to use the ticket machines.
Now touch your card. No, no, you have to leave it there, otherwise...
-Yeah, there you go.
-They've had some teething problems.
-My card broken.
-And the queues are building up.
-You've used up your money.
You need to put on £3.
But as the going gets tough, the tough get going
and staff seem to be getting to grips with the new set-up.
£15 in change and £5 on the machine, OK?
He was very polite with me
and he was very useful and he helped me so much.
-There you go.
-Thank you very much.
-Enjoy. Thank you.
-That's your receipt. Thank you very much.
-Thank you very much.
OK, looks like you've won the jackpot there.
-Do you want to play again? Cheers.
-Thank you very much.
After some early nerves, staff are feeling more positive.
It's like training a new-born child how to work.
It's not going to be easy, but with time, you should get used to it.
Not everyone's convinced about the changes.
There are still concerns from passengers and staff.
Why have these machines
when these people are there telling you how to work it?
They might as well be stuck behind the cash point...cash desk,
where you're going to get sense out of them.
And it doesn't smile at me or say thank you.
I'm not the first. People have problems trying to get tickets
and they need people in the ticket offices to assist and help.
As far as most customers are concerned, very, very wrong.
So far, I haven't had any major problems.
The customers might get used to it, I'll probably get used to it.
Let's hope that nothing goes seriously wrong.
But as the test period comes to a close,
working without the ticket office
hasn't been the disaster some feared it might be.
-You've done well, for what we have to deal with.
So, everybody, well done.
And one man hasn't had quite the experience he expected.
I'm looking forward to it.
It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.
For tonight, Mustak reopens the ticket office.
He'll be hoping things go as smoothly
when it closes its curtains permanently in two weeks' time.
They all know what to expect from the customer, what went well,
what went wrong, so hopefully, they will learn from that and then,
on the day, when we close the ticket offices,
they'll pick out those things from today's experience.
Meanwhile, down on the platform,
and Gerry's just in time for his VIP.
Hello, sir. I'm a member of staff. Can I help you?
He wants to get to the Victoria line.
You want to get to the Victoria line, OK.
Northbound or southbound?
Highbury and Islington, platform six.
Do you want somebody to meet you at the other end?
OK. 2-4 for base.
Excuse me, folks. Come this way, please.
-'That's train number two. Over.'
Imagine that without London Underground being there to help
and provide this service, it would be much more difficult
for a disabled person to find their way around in London.
That's one of the things I enjoy about this job. I can help people.
Mind the doors, please!
Up in the station office, Sinead's busy helping her injured passenger.
-Will you drink that for me, please? Thank you.
What's your name, sir?
Did you hit your head? Cos I've seen you holding it.
-No, I'm fine. I missed a step.
-You missed a step, yeah.
It is quite busy in the station, especially with the rain and that.
A glass of water and some comforting words later,
they're happy to see him on his way.
That's no problem. That's what we're here for.
Picking drunks up off the bottom of the stairs.
She won't let me hold her hand.
I'm going to go on the escalator in front of you.
Don't fall on top of me cos I'll move and let you fall.
Bakerloo southbound to Waterloo.
With Sinead onside, the man has made it to the platform.
Now all she's got to do is get him into a carriage.
Looks like your train's here, my dear.
All right. I hope you get home safe.
Right, he's gone on his way.
He'll probably wake up with a banging head in the morning
and his wife probably won't be too happy with him
and he probably won't remember speaking to me, but there you go.
What can you do? Welcome to life on the Underground.
The undercover Oxford Street police team take on table-surfers, distraction criminals who target bars and restaurants.
It's all change down under as the tube trials the closure of the ticket office at Oxford Circus - how will staff cope with being out on the station floor?