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Phone snatching: How Islington Police Station has become a showroom for stolen mopeds

PUBLISHED: 15:58 25 May 2017 | UPDATED: 17:08 03 August 2017

Supt Mark Payne with one of the stolen mopeds at Islington Police Station. Picture: James Morris

Supt Mark Payne with one of the stolen mopeds at Islington Police Station. Picture: James Morris

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The courtyard at Islington Police Station currently doubles as a showroom for stolen mopeds.

The 'showroom' of stolen mopeds at Islington Police Station. Picture: James MorrisThe 'showroom' of stolen mopeds at Islington Police Station. Picture: James Morris

The Gazette was today invited to a briefing about moped crime at the fortress-like building in Tolpuddle Street. A quick count revealed there are currently 45 stolen machines in the yard. One of them is even a delivery vehicle for Pham Sushi in Whitecross Street.

In the year to April, 489 mopeds were stolen in Islington. And Supt Mark Payne admits: “Three or four a day are wheeled into this courtyard. The problem with mopeds is they are so easy to steal. And this is where the moped owners can help out. Added security measures, like chains, can prevent the mopeds getting stolen and people committing offences on them.”

Moped crime – using the vehicles,which are almost always stolen, for offences such as phone snatching or smash and grab raids – has already reached crisis point in Islington. Nowhere else in London has it so bad. In the last financial year, 2,417 moped-related offences were recorded. That’s 590 more than in Hackney, which has the second highest rate.

As the Gazette speaks to Supt Payne, yet another stolen moped is delivered to the yard for forensic analysis. Once completed, the cops try and return vehicles to their rightful owners. But it’s a revolving door with no sign of stopping.

The 'showroom' of stolen mopeds at Islington Police Station. Picture: James MorrisThe 'showroom' of stolen mopeds at Islington Police Station. Picture: James Morris

“We run operations all the time to catch these people,” he said. “The latest bike here had been used for crimes around Islington for the past two days. Based on our information, we were able to arrest a male at his home. They found him at the side.”

About 50 phone snatches a week take place in the borough. What is it in Islington’s DNA?

“The currency of crime has changed in Islington,” Supt Payne says. “Parts of it are very rich and people’s phones are targeted. It used to be that you could wipe the phone if it was lost or stolen, making it useless. But these days, there’s a huge market for second-hand phone parts, such as screens or components.

“You can get £100 for selling a second-hand phone, which makes it seem like a low level of crime. But if you snatch 20 an hour, as some kids have done, that’s £2,000.”

He added: “It’s not just Islington. It’s becoming more of a London-wide problem. But I think we have it under control. We make arrests every day and get people in the courts.

“But we do need to put the fear back into criminals, and we will be introducing a couple of tactics in the next few months to do that. At the end of the day, people should be able to use their phones in the street without being at the mercy of these moped criminals.”

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