London

'Hugger muggers': Police warn of 'friendly' criminals

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionGangs have targeted partygoers leaving clubs and bars in London's West End

Criminals are mugging people on nights out in central London by pretending to be their friends but then stealing their belongings, police have said.

The groups have been nicknamed "hugger muggers" by Scotland Yard as they gather around revellers who have been drinking and give them hugs.

But they are actually feeling in their pockets and taking wallets, jewellery and other valuables, officers said.

More than 160 such cases were reported in the West End in the past year.

The Metropolitan Police is trying to raise awareness of the practice and offenders have been issued with anti-social behaviour orders to ban them from busy areas.

One victim, who asked the BBC not to identify him, had his credit card stolen by "friendly" strangers at a bar.

"I felt a bit stupid in a sense and naive that I'd actually allowed myself to get into that situation," the man said.

He also described the "real anger and hurt" he felt as a victim of crime.

Det Sgt Chris Minnighan said the issue was "intrinsically linked to the night-time economy in Westminster".

Police are "working tirelessly" to keep the West End as safe as possible, he added.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites