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The City of London Police is reminding the public to be wary of the ‘hugger mugger’ tactic used by thieves to distract their victims.
This follows the sentencing of a man from London for attempting to rob a member of the public, as well as being found with further stolen items and Class A drugs.
Abderrahim Aouida, 25, of Upper Brockley Road, Lewisham, London, was sentenced to a community order, with the requirement to complete 200 hours of unpaid work within 12 months, and ordered to pay charges to the victim and Crown Prosecution Service at Westminster Magistrates Court on Monday 16 August 2021. He previously pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled Class A drug and was also found guilty of attempted theft from a person and receiving stolen goods.
Aouida approached his victim at around 2.40am on Sunday 24 January 2020 in Holborn and wrapped his leg around the man’s foot - a distraction technique commonly known as ‘hugging mugging’. However, the thief did not realise that a City of London Police officer had observed the entire incident.
An officer immediately recognised the technique and alerted his colleagues nearby by shouting “hugger mugger in front”. Two officers approached Aouida, who tried to flee the scene, but he was stopped and searched. The search resulted in the officers seizing a number of items, including another watch, two banks cards not in his name, a mobile phone and cash in various currencies, as well as cocaine.
Officers also spoke with the victim who said that Aouida had attempted to steal his Panerai watch, worth around £7,000. Photographs taken by officers at the scene showed that the clasp on the watch had been unhooked.
T/Detective Constable Philip Wilkes, from the City of London Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID), said:
“This result is testament to the excellent work done by our officers on the streets. The eagle-eyed observation demonstrated here meant that officers were able to stop the thief in his tracks and gather crucial evidence needed to successfully prosecute Aouida.
“‘Hugger muggers’ prey on people who are alone or intoxicated. It’s easy to get lost in the moment on a late night out, but we urge people to be wary of their surroundings and any strangers who approach them.”
Aouida was uncooperative and aggressive during his interaction with officers, denying that the items were stolen and alleging that he had found the bank cards.
Officers contacted the individual associated with the two bank cards, who disclosed that he had lost his wallet on the same day that Aouida had been arrested.
Tips for staying safe on the street
Street crime is often opportunistic, so making yourself less of a target, moving with purpose and being aware of your surroundings will go a long way to keeping you safe.
Plan your route in advance. Carry a charged mobile phone and some cash, and tell someone where you’re going.
From the moment you step out onto the street in the morning, look assertive and act and walk with confidence. This will always make you appear in control and much less vulnerable.
Using a mobile phone, whether making a call or texting, wearing a hood or listening to loud music, all affect your awareness of your surroundings.
Keep your valuables, including your mobile phone, other devices and jewellery, hidden. Remember, out of sight, out of mind.
Go against the flow
When walking on the pavement, always face oncoming traffic, as it will make it far more difficult for thieves on bikes and motorcycles two wheelers to ride up from behind and snatch your property. But still also be aware of anyone approaching from ahead of you.
Trust your instincts
Try to avoid walking alone at night in places such as parks and side streets or any unfamiliar environment. If you do have to walk, stick to busy places where there is a lot of active CCTV and good lighting.
Make a plan and stick to it
First off, discuss with friends what to do if something were to go wrong on your night out together, e.g. if one of you has too much to drink or you were to get separated. Agree on a backup plan and look out for one another.
Alcohol and drugs will reduce reaction times and inhibitions, which makes it harder to assess risks and decide how to deal with them. So keep an eye on how much you drink and never let your glass or bottle out of your sight.
Safety in numbers
Try to travel with people you know and, where possible, stick to routes and forms of transport that others are using and avoid shortcuts in lonely places.