Undercover Police Drag Moped Thieves From Bikes In New Tactic
The London Met have started using undercover police snatch squads to drag suspected moped thugs off their bikes. The tactic is part of a new initiative to combat thieves and smash-and-grab raiders, reports the Evening Standard.
Teams of plain clothes officers ambush criminals using mopeds or scooters while they are caught in slow moving traffic as they ride into the West End.
The snatch squads are being used at traffic “pinch points” and strike when the moped riders are at a stop.
As bikers well know, moped crime is frustratingly on the rise; 24 pedestrians were targeted in a moped gang rampage across north London on Monday.
Four thieves on two mopeds robbed people of their mobile phones in Islington and Camden before police deployed a ‘stinger’ to trap one of the bikes in Islington.
That same day, seven suspects on mopeds raided a luxury watch store in Fleet Street, armed with a samurai sword, metal bars and knives.The group made off with thousands of pounds of watches.
This new “snatch and grab” tactic is being used by officers in Westminster as an alternative to chasing moped robbers at speed in a vehicle - a tactic often considered too risky due to legal implications.
So far, police have dragged two moped thieves from their bikes. One of them was jailed for three years for robbery offences. The other, who was just 14-years-old, was charged with a series of moped enabled crimes.
With moped enabled crime proving difficult to tackle with normal methods, the Met are increasingly looking at new ways to combat the scourge of moped robbers in London.
Stingers are being used to deflate tyres, along with a forensic spray which marks individuals committing offences so they can be identified later. The spray was used more than eight times across London in recent weeks.
Detective Superintendent Jess Ruddell, of Westminster Police, who implemented the snatch squads, told The Evening Standard: “This new tactic works and sends out a message that police are willing to do this and tackle these suspects.
“This is hugely manpower intensive but we are absolutely committed to getting on top of this offending. We are deploying covert and overt tactics to tackle these robberies.”
Sergeant Matt Carey, of the Operation Venice team which targets moped-enabled crime, explained how police deploy spotters to identify suspects travelling to commit crime in the West End.
They look for moped riders with pillion passengers who commit motoring offences such as jumping red lights or hiding licence plates with plastic bags.
The spotters then radio ahead to the snatch squads lying in wait at ambush points where traffic comes to a stop.
Sgt Carey told the Evening Standard: ”The pinch points are where traffic slows down to a halt, where they have to walk their bikes through.
“They know they are at risk there but there is pretty much nothing they can do about it once they are boxed in by other vehicles.
“Once they are in that position this is where we jump out and remove them from their bikes. If the risk is too high and they are travelling at speed we will not do it.”
If moped criminals aren't caught at the scene, detectives use forensic techniques and CCTV to identify networks of individuals who are committing hundreds of offences across London.
Last month a moped robbery gang which committed more than 100 phone snatches in 18 days was jailed for five years after an investigation by the Westminster Crime Squad.
Claude Parkinson, 18, and two other youths aged 15 and 16 admitted conspiracy to rob at Southwark crown court.
Samsul Chowdhury, 40, of Bethnal Green got four years, ten months for handling stolen goods.
Police say the tactics are having an effect with the number of moped offences in Westminster having dropped to 20 to 25 compared to around 100 a week a few months ago.
Det Supt Ruddell said: “We have seen a reduction but we are not taking our foot off the pedal.
“We want anyone thinking of coming into Westminster to commit offences to think twice because they are going to get caught.”
She added: “However, we cannot do this alone and I appeal to anyone who spots suspicious activity such as mopeds coming back to a lock-up in the early hours or youths congregating on bikes with pillions to contact us.
“These individuals are committing huge numbers of offences but there is a finite number of offenders who will be doing this.”
Detectives in Camden and Islington are appealing for help in tracing a moped gang who targeted pedestrians with phones on Monday.