Councils and police crack down on Wimbledon touts

Safer Merton – a joint partnership made up of Merton Council, the Metropolitan Police Service and other agencies – has once again joined forces with neighbouring Wandsworth Council , and in partnership with the Lawn Tennis Association, to tackle touts illegally selling tickets at this year’s Wimbledon tennis championships.

The team is working hard with residents and local businesses to improve even further on the considerable success of last year’s dispersal zone around The All England Lawn Tennis Club which saw the sale of stolen and forged tickets almost wholly eradicated with around a 97% decrease in 2008 compared to previous years.

Police will warn known touts about the zone by letter, telling them that anyone found loitering in groups of two or more can be dispersed from the area for up to 24 hours. If they are caught selling tickets during The Championships they can be arrested.

Last year’s cross-border dispersal zone was the first of its kind in the UK – with police using their powers under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 to combat criminal touting. Criminal offences associated with stolen or forged tickets and the number of ‘stop and search’ incidents both fell sharply, by 60% and 70% respectively.

The success of the project has also been recognised by the Home Office as Safer Merton have this week (15 June) been named as the London regional winner of their problem solving and partnership awards, which means that the project will now be entered into the national Tilley awards.

Superintendent Graeme Thomson of Merton Police said: “Last year’s dispersal zone was such a great success we had interest from sporting organisations such as the National Football Unit, the national rugby stadium at Twickenham, Chelsea Football Club and Wembley Stadium ‘ .

“We are working hard to make sure this year we reduce the levels of ticket touting and eliminate the sale of any forged or stolen tickets.”

Merton Council’s cabinet member for community safety and engagement, Councillor Henry Nelless said:

“We are committed to putting residents and visitors first and this means ensuring the tennis championships are a safe, crime-free event that everyone enjoys. The Safer Merton team is working extremely hard in partnership with Wandsworth to make a success of this year’s dispersal zone and create a secure environment during the Wimbledon tennis fortnight as they strive to do throughout the year.”

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Notes:

– Safer Merton is a partnership made up of Merton Council, the police, the London Fire Brigade, the Primary Care Trust and other agencies.

– The dispersal zone was introduced last year as in the previous few years up to 50 people, touts and their teams, would congregate near Southfields tube station hoping to attract spectators on their way to the tennis. The police used their powers of stop and search but touts tended to just leave and return, or else get wise and use someone else, for example a shop keeper, to hold the tickets or cash evidence, making it difficult for police to make arrests.

– The All England Club has been in the vanguard of anti-tout activity since 1990, funding measures to minimise the black market sale of tickets to prevent tickets destined for genuine tennis fans from being redirected to the highest bidder and to curb the black market in Wimbledon tickets, particularly with regard to unofficial corporate hospitality companies who acquire tickets from this source.