The private force of ex detectives taking on the shoplifters

The private force of ex detectives taking on the shoplifters: How crack team of former Flying Squad and anti-terror officers are tackling a rise in store thefts themselves because the police don’t want to

  • Terrified towns have taken the law into their own hands by hiring private police 

A former Scotland Yard detective who heads a company dubbed Britain’s first ‘private police force’ today insisted all it was doing was ‘old-fashioned policing’ that modern forces ‘no longer do’. 

TM Eye consists of a crack team of former detectives with experience investigating major crimes including murder, terrorism and armed robbery. They are paid by households and businesses to patrol local areas and investigate crimes – including the UK’s epidemic of shoplifting. 

Founder David McKelvey said his colleagues targeted crimes that were often neglected by police, such as burglary, street robbers and pick-pocketing.   

He told MailOnline: ‘All we’re doing is old-fashioned beat policing, community policing, supported by very experienced, proactive detectives. It’s nothing new, it’s not rocket science. It’s what police used to do.

‘We have residential beats and business beats, so we’re very tied in with our communities. Residents’ concerns are still the same things, like burglaries, street robberies and pick-pocketing.

TM Eye’s founder David McKelvey is a a former detective chief inspector at Scotland Yard

Russians Marduaajevs stole more than £200 of meat from a shop in Tulse Hill, London, TM Eye said

‘Then businesses are concerned about retail crime and violence towards staff. The biggest thing that concerns us is the increase in violence against retail staff. 

‘We focus on offences that are not normally dealt with by the police or weren’t a priority. When something happens in the areas we patrol the majority of times people don’t phone the police now – they call us.’

It comes as towns across England increasingly turn to private police forces to patrol their High Streets. In Cambridgeshire 50 villages have hired guards for their neighbourhoods while Sussex city of Chichester has also brought in private security for its businesses.

READ MORE:  How private police forces are being hired to patrol High Streets and estates… as faith in the boys in blue sinks to record low 

However, there has been criticism from the public, with some people questioning how well trained these private bobbies are. 

TM Eye employs 100 ‘bobbies’, who wear police-like uniforms with red stab-proof vests, and 28 plain-clothes detectives who mingle with shoppers.

The Essex-based firm, which has worked with companies including Apple, Louis Vuitton, Mulberry and Fortnum & Mason, aims to catch criminals and then take them to court through private prosecutions brought by its own lawyers. 

In one recent case, they were called in after £500 of sirloin steak and 20 bottles of prosecco were taken from an M&S but police decided not to investigate. 

Two detectives were quickly able to identify a suspect on the store’s CCTV – making an arrest and allegedly getting a confession recorded on their body cams. 

The suspect is now set to be prosecuted for five burglaries, including a second alleged offence at the same supermarket. He faces up to 14 years in prison. 

Previously, TM Eye officers were seen tackling a group of shoplifters outside Tesco as they tried to flee with electrical goods ‘worth more than £3,000’. 

This week another prolific caught by the company pleaded guilty following a private prosecution. 

Previously, TM Eye officers were seen tackling a group of shoplifters (pictured) outside Tesco as they tried to flee with electrical goods ‘worth more than £3,000’ 

The team were able to arrest two of the men before police arrived (they are pictured here)  

The back of the thieves car, which contained electrical goods ‘worth more than £3,000’

Russians Marduaajevs stole more than £200  of meat from a shop in Tulse Hill, London, TM Eye announced yesterday. 

He was found guilty of two offences of burglary and one count of breaching a criminal order and will be sentenced at a later date.   

Other members of the company’s investigations team include Barry Walker. 

READ MORE: Revealed: Have-a-go heroes who foiled ‘brazen Tesco shoplifters’ are ‘crime fighters’ who tackled ‘thieves’ during their lunch break… and claim police took more than half an hour to arrive

According to a biography on TM Eye’s website, he is a former Met Flying Squad member who also investigated major crimes including murder and terrorism. 

Meanwhile, Steve Hobbs was the senior investigating officer in more than 200 murder investigations and led the team responsible for gathering evidence used to prosecute 14 terrorists in the biggest ‘super grass’ trial in Northern Ireland’s history.

Other colleagues have expertise in other areas including organised crime, trading standards and Internet offences. 

Some are employed to investigate murders when the victim’s family was unhappy with the original police investigation, or where there has been a possible miscarriage of justice.  

Mr McKelvey, who left the Met in 2010, said a lack of trust in the police was one of the factors behind the high demand for his services.

‘I think the problem at the moment is policing has become very reactive, so all they are doing is reporting and recording crime – they’re not actually going out catching villains,’ he said. 

‘Police numbers in London are now higher than they’ve ever been. But you’ve got a very inexperienced workforce. Morale is not good – we recently put out an advert and had 14 police officers replying.

‘Another factor is that officers are scared to stop people and arrest people. There’s a palpable fear of doing something wrong or being perceived to have done something wrong.

‘There are serious problems in policing at the moment. I hope as much as anyone else that they get resolved because it doesn’t help anybody if they don’t have the trust of the public.’ 

TM Eye employs 100 ‘bobbies’, who wear police-like uniforms with red stab-proof vests, and 28 plain-clothes detectives who mingle with shoppers 

The spread of private policing comes as the UK faces a shoplifting epidemic, with more than ten million thefts every year – about 30,000 per day or one every two seconds.

READ MORE: Private police who’ve been hired to patrol Cambridgeshire town tell how spate of burglaries has left locals ‘petrified’

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said this summer shoplifting had risen 27 per cent across ten of the largest cities in the UK, with some cities up as much as 68 per cent.

It estimates that shops lost £953million to customer theft last year – the greatest loss on record in recent years.

Home Office data shows shoplifting rose by 24 per cent last year, as thieves take advantage of lax policing and a criminal justice system that lets off perpetrators without jail sentences.

And 88 companies, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, WH Smith, Aldi, Primark and Superdrug, have written to the Government to demand action as Britain’s shoplifting epidemic spirals out of control.

The retail giants – who are usually bitter rivals – are urging the Government to make assaulting, threatening or abusing a retail worker a specific crime – something which exists in Scotland already.

‘This standalone offence would send an important signal that our colleagues will receive better protection in law and act as a deterrent to would-be offenders. This action should be taken without delay,’ the letter said.

TM Eye were called in after £500 of sirloin steak and 20 bottles of prosecco were taken from an M&S. Pictured: File photos of the store’s prosecco and steak

Private police forces have become a more common site even outside the capital, with the historic market town of Kimbolton in Cambridgeshire hiring its own security after multiple houses were burgled in the space of a few weeks.

About 50 villages in the area also hired security guards for their neighbourhoods, with their services costing households about £35 a month. 

READ MORE: Now shoplifting epidemic hits real-life setting of ITV crime hit Broadchurch as locals claim police are ‘not interested’

A security boss said his company, Shield, which is taking over security in Kimbolton and has dozens of other towns on its books, has seen the number of enquiries from residents, farmers and businesses increase by the day.

‘There is just an increase in anti-social behaviour full stop: burglaries, damaging and stealing equipment, setting up cannabis factories, whatever it may be,’ he told MailOnline in September.

‘There is a hell of a lot of people even in villages that are frightened to go out after dark. Elderly people in particular are petrified to go out after dark.’

He said many of his customers have lost faith in the police, who are too overstretched to deal with minor incidents.

‘The first thing police say is “anybody injured” and they say no and so they don’t come out.

‘It’s quite alarming, people are saying “I had somebody in my garden, I called the police and they didn’t turn up.”

‘There seems to be a gap, during the dark hours police are struggling to cover all the minor incidents.’

‘People want reassurance and they want people to be there. If someone calls us, we will respond to that, we will probably send a few cars out, maybe a dog handler and a drone straightaway and an arrest is made if it’s an indictable offence.’

The historic market town of Kimbolton in Cambridgeshire hired their own private police force to patrol the streets after multiple houses in the same neighbourhood were burgled

The security company has state of the art drones, thermal cameras, marked cars and dogs to try and deter crime

Having worked with a fleet of five vehicles for seven years, the security boss said the company has just ordered another two to cope with demand

After a string of burglaries in Kimbolton, homeowners took matters into their own hands in 2019

The security company has state of the art drones, thermal cameras, marked cars and dogs to try and deter crime and reassure residents in the communities it covers.

READ MORE:  Tesco resorts to using a heavy-duty padlock on fridges to stop shoplifters stealing bottles of champagne

Having worked with a fleet of five vehicles for seven years, the security boss said the company has just ordered another two to cope with demand.

‘We are even being asked to go out in daylight,’ he said.

‘A lot of the villagers know the villages don’t get policed as they would like.

‘When they are at work or go shopping in the day and their premises are left unattended they want to have a marked vehicle in the area.’

It is not just residents homes which are being targeted but also high street businesses, he said.

‘We have a customer who is a pharmacist who has issues with anti-social behaviour every night, they’ll set his alarm off and he lives in another county – it’s an hour drive to get to his premises.’

He said farmers are also having to fork out ‘tens of thousands’ for damage to their machinery and fields.

‘Criminals are using cutting equipment to cut through gates and padlocks – they are even using drones to do their surveillance in the day,’ he warned.

In 2019, around 140 homeowners living in Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham, decided to pay £504-a-month for a team of guards to safeguard their homes three times a week. 

Some 69 of the families on this Sutton Coldfield estate opted to pay an extra £10-per-week for added security

Those on Warwick Street in Sutton Coldfield connected through WhatsApp after they noticed a spike in burglaries and car break-ins and got private security in 2019

Anti-social behaviour has risen in Portsmouth with locals now taking matters into their own hands to protect local businesses (Pictured: A group attempts to break into a Portsmouth business)

Andy Kircher leads a team of volunteers who patrol the streets of Portsmouth at night

Andy’s team are equipped with stab proof vests and CCTV cameras 

Members of the community connected through WhatsApp after they noticed a spike in the number of burglaries and car break-ins on the road.

Some 69 of the families opted to pay an extra £10-per-week for added security.

John Edkins, 67, and wife Janice, 61, put forward the idea to hire a team of guards from security firm Innovative Security Control.

Mrs Edkins said: ‘Home break-ins and car thefts started happening every four or five days, and at any time of the day or night.

‘Recently, residents had noticed a number of unknown cars driving up and the street.

What are security guards powers? Can they handcuff you and are you allowed to resist?

Security guards in the UK have the same rights as a normal citizen – which means they do not get any extra powers like police officers.

Security guards are allowed to carry handcuffs and use them when necessary.

Security guards have the right to use reasonable force against someone, including restraining them.

This means they can touch someone to perform a citizen’s arrest.

However this does not mean they can use any kind of violence against anyone.

Security guards cannot search you unless you give consent – even if they believe you have shoplifted.

‘We felt like we were being watched, it made us scared to leave the house.’

Last year a community near Liverpool that was afraid of balaclava-wearing gangs of teens brought in their own reinforcement.

A father who lives in the area told the Liverpool Echo that they pay the security firm a monthly fee and are given access to a 24/7 hotline in case anything happens.

The firm would conduct three patrols during the day and three patrols during the night in return.

In Portsmouth volunteer ‘vigilantes’ have taken to patrolling their own city streets equipped with bodycams and stab-proof vests because their ‘trust’ with police has been ‘broken’ and crime has increased ‘tenfold.’

Fed up with drug dealing, car thefts and other offences, Andy Kircher organised local residents to tackle crime because he believes there aren’t enough officers on the beat.

Mr Kircher, who owns a CCTV company, spent £2,500 of his own money to buy protective gear for the volunteers in Portsmouth and local businesses have also donated money to the group.

Equipped with bodycams, high visibility jackets, stab-proof vests and radios, the volunteers roam their local areas at night and make reports to the police, even intervening when it is safe.

Mr Kircher claims crime has gone up ‘tenfold’ in recent years and insists his approach is now yielding results.

‘The police have acted on the reports we have given them and have made arrests,’ he said. ‘Action is being taken.

‘The police are responding where they can, but they can’t be everywhere at once. I feel sorry for them.

‘There are nowhere near enough officers on the beat overnight. Residents are worried. I want people to feel safe in their own homes.’

Mr Kircher said he will continue the patrols due to the amount of public support, with residents requesting patrols to cover their areas.

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