Victoria Tube line serial robbers targeted by police using anti-protest laws to remove face masks

 (Ethan Wilkinson / Unsplash)
(Ethan Wilkinson / Unsplash)

Detectives tackling a surge in mobile phone snatches on the Victoria Underground line are using new anti-protest laws to force anyone to remove face masks.

British Transport Police launched the weekend crackdown across all stations on the route from Walthamstow Central to Brixton.

It came as the force arrested 64 people last month in a wave of anti-robbery operations.

Powers under Section 60 and 60AA of the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act have been used during pro-Palestine demonstrations in central London since October.

But BTP adopted the method on the weekend of February 3 and 4 in response to a sharp rise in muggings.

Failure to comply can result in imprisonment or a £1,000 fine.

Chief Superintendent Chris Casey, divisional commander of London and South East England, said: “Robbery offences are mostly conducted by individuals who conceal their identities by using face coverings and the overwhelming majority of victims are teenagers.”

The order enables police to remove or seized any item that they reasonably believe is being used to wholly or mainly to conceal identity.

Victoria line train (PA Archive)
Victoria line train (PA Archive)

During the force’s recent Operation Invert, an early prosecution saw serial phone snatcher Mahamadou Jawara, 22, of Newham, admit four counts of robbery and seven counts of theft.

He was sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment suspended for two years and to pay £2,200 in compensation.

In addition police officers seized 15 weapons that were being carried on the rail network and have charged two teenagers.

Operational lead superintendent John Loveless said: “Tackling robbery on the rail network is a force priority and we have zero tolerance for these types of offences.

“We’ve had multiple Operation Invert deployments throughout January, and I’m pleased to see the number of arrests made as a result.

“We’re aware of the number of youth offenders involved in robbery and we’re continuing to explore the use of further preventative restrictions, such as criminal behaviour orders and youth rehabilitation orders, to ensure we are doing all we can to deter these offences.

“We are committed to tackling robbery and weapon possession on the network and we would like to reassure the public that this activity will be continuing going forward.”