London businesses are increasingly resorting to private security services due to their claims that the Metropolitan Police (Met) fails to respond to shoplifting incidents.

The My Local Bobby scheme, which provides a warden service for a fee, has been adopted by Clapham Junction in Battersea, southwest London. Police data reveals a 21.1% increase in shoplifting cases over the past year, although the local Business Improvement District (BID) suggests the actual increase is higher.

Businesses lack faith in Met Police’s response

Johnny Dyson, the director of The Junction BID, which represents approximately 400 businesses across the Clapham Junction area, stated that most members do not report offences such as shoplifting to the Met Police due to their scepticism regarding police attendance.

Dyson highlighted the significant decrease in police presence after the pandemic and the overwhelming paperwork burden faced by the police. The BID introduced two My Local Bobby wardens in November, allocating a third of its £370,000 ($470,397) annual budget to the service.

Dyson praised the wardens as effective deterrents, resulting in reduced shoplifting incidents.

My Local Bobby: who are they and how do they operate?

My Local Bobby, co-founded in 2016 by former Met detective chief superintendent David McKelvey, offers security services in public areas across London’s BIDs.

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The wardens, known as Bobbies, must undergo training by an approved provider, pass a criminal record check and receive accreditation from the Security Industry Authority.

They are trained in trauma response, duty of care, citizen arrests and the use of handcuffs. Once deployed in BIDs, they collaborate with businesses to address issues such as anti-social behaviour and shoplifting.

Participating businesses are part of a WhatsApp group to share information about known shoplifters and can report incidents to the Bobbies.

So Me Beauty benefits from MyLocalBobby

So Me Beauty, a salon in Clapham Junction, has experienced several incidents of attempted theft, with perpetrators targeting expensive products during busy periods or using distractions.

The salon rarely receives a response from the Met Police when reporting thefts. So Me Beauty beauty therapist Zuzi Kam expressed satisfaction with MyLocalBobby, noting a reduction in issues lately.

The Bobbies encounter repeat offenders

My Local Bobby senior contract manager Ben Sheldrake revealed that his team deals with numerous incidents weekly, ranging from stolen food to high-value makeup products.

The Bobbies’ presence in designated areas allows for a more responsive approach. Sheldrake emphasised that their regular interaction with criminals disrupts their routines and poses a challenge.

He defended the need for private security services, stating that they fill gaps and provide oversight through service agreements and contractual understandings.

Concerns and public opinion

Some individuals, such as Sinead Hunter, are not store owners and remain indifferent toward the Bobbies, emphasising the importance of careful recruitment.

Others, such as Sarah Byrne, are sceptical about separate police forces and question the availability of officers for shoplifting incidents.

The Met Police spokesperson acknowledged the right of individuals and businesses to employ security companies for additional safety, emphasising their close collaboration with such firms.

Increasing retail crime prompts private security adoption

The rise in private security services in London corresponds to a 21.1% increase in shoplifting incidents over the past year.

This comes as the Met Police faces challenges in handling mental health calls and criticism regarding poor responses to burglary, robbery and theft cases.