Police made several arrests after a TikTok trend urged crowds of young people to steal from stores on London’s famous Oxford Street.
Hundreds of teenagers gathered outside JD Sports on the capital’s busiest shopping street in an apparent response to widely shared posts on Snapchat and TikTok urging users to take part in an “Oxford Circus JD robbery” at 3pm.
Terrified shoppers were reportedly locked inside stores when staff members were forced to pull their shutters down after dozens of people grabbed items from display shelves.
Videos posted on social media showed a chaotic scene, as people ran across streets screaming. Several showed crowds of people rushing into shops. Others appeared confused by the heavy police presence on the scene.
Just after 8pm, the Metropolitan police said it issued 34 dispersal orders and arrested nine people. A statement read: “Four people were arrested on suspicion of breaching the dispersal order, one person was arrested on suspicion of going equipped to steal, one person arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer, and one person was arrested on suspicion of a public order offence.
“Earlier in the afternoon, officers arrested two people in Essex for conspiracy to commit robbery following online social media posts.”
Earlier, the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, urged people not to take part. He said: “I am worried about this nonsense we have seen on TikTok encouraging people to go to Oxford Street.”
I’d encourage anybody who’s seen it not to go to Oxford Street. Do not allow yourself to be sucked into an area that could be a high-crime area.” Guardian
Home secretary Suella Braverman has called for those responsible for the disorder to be “hunted down” and jailed.
Sharing a video on Twitter/X of police making arrests, she posted: “We cannot allow the kind of lawlessness seen in some American cities to come to the streets of the UK.
“The police have my full backing to do whatever necessary to ensure public order.
“Those responsible must be hunted down & locked up. I expect nothing less from the @metpoliceuk and have requested a full incident report.” Independent
Crazes like this happened from time to time, spurred on by social media agitators. Last year a dangerous challenge spread on TikTok and other social media platforms had car owners and police departments on alert across the USA. The trend challenged teens to steal a car off the street by breaking into the car, popping off the steering wheel column and hot wiring the vehicle using a USB cable, similar to the wire used to charge a phone. In 2021, smash-and-grab robberies took place in stores around San Francisco and Minneapolis that were organized on social media apps by groups of people who had never met targeting Nordstrom, Louis Vuitton, and Best Buy stores.