In Depth

Why moped crime is surging

Michael McIntyre becomes latest victim while waiting to collect his children from school

Comedian Michael McIntyre was robbed by moped-riding criminals yesterday while collecting his children from school.

The 42-year-old TV personality was waiting in his car near the school, in Golder’s Green, north London, when the windows of the black Range Rover were smashed and he was reportedly forced to hand over his Rolex watch.

According to The Sun, McIntyre’s agent confirmed: “Michael was involved in an incident involving armed robbers. He is absolutely fine and helping police with their inquiries.”

The Metropolitan Police appealed for witnesses, adding: “The victim was stationary in his car when two males on a moped smashed the car windows with a hammer before stealing property. No injuries were reported. No arrests have been made. Enquiries continue.”

The incident is the latest in a spate of moped-related crime. Last year the Met reported that “gangs of youths were using stolen scooters, mopeds, motorcycles and bikes to commit tens of thousands of snatch offences across London”, says the London Evening Standard.

Research by Catch 22, a charity that works with former gang members, has found that moped criminals can make as much as £300 in a matter of minutes.

“People we’ve spoken to see this as almost a victimless crime and they don’t believe the police care about it,” Catch 22 director Beth Murray told The Guardian. “It’s done by 14- or 15-year-olds who are proving themselves. They stick to their own patch because they know the streets, or they’ll go to the West End (of London), because there will be more tourists and richer people with better phones.”

Why the sudden rise in moped crime?

There are a number of reasons for the increase in these types of crimes, argues James Treadwell, a professor in criminology at Staffordshire University, in an article on The Conversation. “While the [mobile phone] industry did much to stop the theft of phone handsets a few years ago, demand for parts such as screens and batteries has made phones worth stealing again,” he writes.

Scooters and mopeds “often have woefully bad security”, making them “easy pickings for determined offenders”, Treadwell adds.

“What’s really changed is the method,” says Superintendent Mark Payne, who runs Operation Venice, the Met’s response to moped, scooter and motorcycle crime.

“In the past it was done on foot or with bicycles. What they [thieves] have caught on to is that mopeds and scooters are just really easy to steal,” Payne told The Guardian.

The Met’s budget has also fallen by 20% in real terms since 2010, and the force is facing further cuts, “a situation that Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, has blamed for a recent rise in violent crime, after years of falling offences”, says the Financial Times.

What are the statistics?

In Liverpool, Manchester and other northern towns, police teams have been struggling to combat the use of off-road bikes linked to anti-social behaviour, shootings and drug dealing.

But London remains the epicentre of the crime wave, with “moped crimes ranging from bike thefts, mobile phone snatches, acid attacks and violent attacks on stores and cafes, often involving hammers, knives, and other weapons”, says the i newspaper. “In 2015 the Metropolitan Police logged 4,647 such crimes, but in the year from June 2016 to 2017, they recorded a staggering 16,158 crimes.”

What’s being done to combat the crimewave?

Met police are focusing on a two-pronged solution to the problem.

One is making mopeds harder to steal. “Like bicycles, cheap mopeds need to be chained to steel posts,” says The Guardian, a point that the Met has been emphasising in its “Be Safe” campaign.

Meanwhile, the Government has introduced new legislation designed to give police pursuit drivers more legal protection if they are involved in a crash.

The new proposals “aim to smash the ‘myth’ that officers cannot pursue riders who are not wearing helmets”, reports the BBC.

“Criminals must not think they can get away with a crime by riding or driving in a certain way,” Minister for Policing Nick Hurd said.

New technological policing aids are also being trialled, with tablet computers being used by officers on the beat to predict where moped crime will happen, “based on records of previous crime spots, and the times of offences”, says the Financial Times.

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