The independent London newspaper

Moped gangs ‘are ramping up violence’, police chief warns

Met in crisis talks with targeted delivery firms after acid attacks

21 July, 2017 — By Emily Finch, Koos Couvée

A POLICE chief has warned that moped gangs are committing increasingly violent robberies. The alert comes in the wake of five shocking acid attacks on moped riders, one in Islington.

Crisis meetings have been held between the Met and delivery companies to assure drivers that police will clamp down on moped criminals – a minority of whom are threatening or using extreme violence, including wielding hammers and crowbars.

As a police investigation into the five acid attacks on moped drivers in the early hours of last Thursday continues, a 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named because of his age, appeared at a youth court in Stratford on Monday. The teenager, from Croydon, denied charges including wounding, robbery and possession of a weapon.

It comes as three teenagers from Islington – aged 17, 16 and 15 – pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rob following a series of 103 moped-enabled thefts in the West End.

In one shocking raid, they mounted the pavement while two accomplices riding pillion wielded a hammer and a crowbar to intimidate terrified passers-by as they attempted to snatch phones.

“The dynamic that has changed is that there are emerging groups which are using violence more and more often,” said Stuart Ryan, detective superintendent for investigations based at Islington Police Station.

“Some with hammers, some are using acid, and they are targeting people on the streets as well as delivery drivers. What is worrying is that as a minority they are becoming more and more happy to use weapons. They’re doing it to intimidate and to scare people. But it’s a small group who are doing this. The majority of offenders don’t use weapons.”

For many teenagers, moped thefts have become a “crime of choice”, as they are used to transport drugs and snatch phones, which can fetch £150 on the black market.

Hundreds of delivery drivers, who claim they fear for their safety while working – particularly in Islington and Hackney – brought traffic around Parliament Square to a standstill on Tuesday as they called for greater protection from moped robbers.

One delivery driver said: “My missus worries about the fact I’m about. Most of the guys on the streets are from families and got kids and they are worried.

“I’ve actually messaged [my employer] telling them this. To another driver who was robbed they said: ‘It’s unfortunate it’s happened but at least they’ve caught the boy so don’t worry. You can crack on with your job.’ But it’s not a one or two person thing. People are going to carry on doing this without the acid attacks. They’ll use other things like a knife.”

Another driver added: “We don’t feel safe. I had my bike stolen a couple of weeks ago. They used to stop you with a knife. Now they chuck some­thing at your face. It’s getting worse and worse.”

Det Supt Ryan said: “The concern among delivery drivers is valid. We are working with the national delivery companies to make the drivers feel safe, but also developing ways to capture all the information they see every day so we can catch these offenders.”

The capital has seen a rise in acid attacks, with 455 in London over the last year. But Det Supt Ryan said there were just three acid attacks in Islington in the past 12 months.

The 16-year-old accused of the acid attacks was remanded in custody to appear at Wood Green Crown Court on August 14. A 15-year-old boy who was arrested in Stoke Newington on Friday, also on suspicion of grievous bodily harm and robbery, was released on bail until a date in early August.

The three Islington teenagers are in custody awaiting sentence after admitting offences at Southwark Crown Court on June 27.

Two of them also admitted breaching criminal behaviour orders banning them from riding mopeds because of previous offending on scooters.


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