Hotel crime unit gets fresh boost

31 May 2001
Hotel crime unit gets fresh boost

The specialist hotel crime unit in London's police force is to be expanded from three to six officers just a few weeks after it was saved from being scrapped entirely (Caterer, 24 May, page 5).

The about-turn is the latest twist in a confused recent history for the unit, which has endured both cuts and promises of expansion in the past.

One insider said that the announced closure of the unit, due on 1 June, resulted from a bureaucratic bungle by a newly appointed senior officer who decided to axe the unit before knowing what it did.

The unit's duties include tackling burglaries and bag theft in four- and five-star hotels. It operates across three London boroughs - Westminster, Camden, and Kensington & Chelsea - as well as providing support to neighbouring forces.

Head of security for Hilton hotels in London, Ian Blake, said: "I'm delighted that the Met has changed its mind and realised the value of this unit."

Chief security officer at London's Inter-Continental hotels, Brian Small, said: "They give us information on active thieves in the area. Without the unit it would be much harder for us to know who is out there doing what."

Detective Constable Dave Smith said that security could be lax in some hotels because it is not perceived as a profit-making investment, and hotels are afraid of being sued by a wrongly accused guest.

Hotels nearly always want to remain anonymous when confronting crime, because they fear bad publicity, but Smith thought prosecuting thieves - sometimes members of staff - can be seen as positive. "OK, it's got into the press, but you've dealt with it the whole way through, and this is a deterrent to others as well as showing you are serious about crime," he said. "Five years ago CCTV cameras were perceived to be saying ‘We've got a problem', but not any more. Foreign visitors want and expect them."

by Ben Walker

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