Crime involving mopeds has gone up by more than 600% in London in the past two years.
Met Police figures for 2016 show more than 7,500 offences, including attacks, robberies and thefts, recorded to date – about 22 per day. The Met said the rise, which was mainly due to teenagers stealing mopeds and using them to commit crimes, was a “huge concern”. It has, however, denied the problem is “out of control”.
Moped-enabled crime has affected other big cities in the UK but the problem is by far and away biggest in London.
The large number of tourists with mobile phones and concentration of high-end shops makes it an attractive target for criminals.
Internal Scotland Yard statistics show there have been 7,668 crimes involving mopeds to date in 2016 – up from 1,053 in the whole of 2014 and 4,647 in the whole of 2015. Supt Mark Payne, who runs Operation Venice which was set up two years ago to tackle the problem, said: “I think it’s a huge concern because it is a change in criminal behaviour. “The fact of the matter is it’s much more difficult to deal with people on mopeds than it was people who were committing those sorts of crimes before on foot or on bicycles.”
The Met has drawn up a list of 200 individuals they suspect of moped-related crimes, but many escape prosecution because of a lack of evidence. In addition, many suspects are not pursued if they are not wearing a helmet because of concerns for their safety.
Four officers from Islington in north London are facing disciplinary action over the death of teenager Henry Hicks, after an inquest jury found he died during an unauthorised pursuit in Islington in 2012.
The police watchdog is investigating the death of 18-year-old Lewis Johnson whose scooter crashed during another pursuit. The Met said it was using an “Achilles Heel” style approach – a tactic used to catch gangster Al Capone – to stop repeat offenders who can not be prosecuted for crimes for which they are suspected. It means they are being pursued for less serious crimes, including having no insurance, no licence or other driving offences.
The police denied criminals felt they could get away because they knew officers were highly unlikely to chase them if they were not wearing a helmet and said the police were currently striking the right balance when it came to weighing up the risks of pursuing a suspect at speed.
Police have also urged moped owners to use more locks to protect their vehicles.