Police chief reveals cops DON'T have to stop chasing moped crooks if they remove their helmets
PUBLISHED: 16:18 18 January 2018 | UPDATED: 10:41 19 January 2018
It is not true that police chasing mopeds must stop if the riders remove their helmets, a top cop has insisted.
Supt Louis Smith was addressing councillors at Hackney town hall last night about the issue that has blighted Islington and Camden in particular, but also the surrounding boroughs. Islington had the second highest rate of moped crime last year but Camden, one place higher, is one and a half times the size.
Supt Smith said the belief of many that if they take their helmets off police won’t chase is wrong.
“That was never the case,” he explained. “It relies on training. It relies on them [officers] knowing what information to give about the pursuit. It’s all controlled centrally.
“There are huge risks involved with pursuits of people on two wheels with no helmets on. We’ve had tragic cases where people have died. Forget what they’ve done. They’ve died in a pursuit – it’s awful, no one wants that to happen.”
Supt told Hackney councillors at the scrutiny meeting that the net was closing on the criminals. Many of the perpetrators have been from Islington, like the Hutson twins Cavell and Zuriel from Highbury New Park, who were both jailed after high-profile – and high-speed – chases over the last two years.
Supt Smith said: “It’s really affected five or six boroughs in London. It’s young men, always men, who think it’s a good way to earn a living. You could almost track it from the bike being stolen in east London through to the West End smash and grabs.
“It’s a relatively small group of people. We have good intelligence around the majority of them, it’s just picking them off one by one.
“One of the biggest people we wanted was arrested last night.”
Councillors also heard about Operation Venice, which tackles moped crime and has seen officers using “smart water” to tag criminals.
“It’s recognisable for many days after,” he said. “We spray a Super Soaker at people. If we know where they are going we track it and will have an officer on the street corner waiting to soak them. We often know who they are, it’s just about putting evidence together to investigate and get a conviction.”
The Met is also speaking with the industries involved in the crimes – motorbike and smartphone manufacturers.
“I’m a motorcyclist and I have a high-value motorbike – it costs about £8,000 brand new,” Supt Smith continued. “To secure it would cost about 10 to 20 per cent of that price. It’s not the same as spending £30,000 or £40,000 on a car and then it’s just an add-on.
“We have to have simple means of securing bikes and it has to be built in and we’re talking to the industry about that.
“The other aspect is dealing with stolen goods like iPhones. It can be tracked if it’s turned on. So we are trying to convince the industry to put in a passcode function to turn it off [meaning a phone couldn’t be switched off without someone entering a PIN]. It would give us a fighting chance.”
Asked by chair Cllr Sharon Patrick why there had been such a huge increase in the crime, Supt Smith said: “It’s transference. It’s another way of committing a crime they would have anyway. It’s like the SatNav raids a few years ago. We have to understand new tactics from a criminal viewpoint.
“I think there’s a belief they are more likely to get away with it. It’s not true but that’s the belief.”
Acid attacks also came up, and Supt Smith said rolling yearly figures were showing a decrease.
He added: “I don’t pretend to understand it. My experience is they haven’t conceptualised the damage they will do and they are very remorseful a couple of days later.”
To try and prevent this, police, lawyers and doctors may sit down with someone on the cusp of being sucked into a life of crime.