Hackney police reveal: ‘We know who moped crooks are’
PUBLISHED: 12:26 18 January 2018 | UPDATED: 12:57 18 January 2018
A top Hackney cop says police know who the moped crooks in London are – and it’s a case of “picking them off one by one”.
Supt Louis Smith told councillors last night that there “weren’t many” people from Hackney on the list of known thieves and the borough is usually used as a pass through.
He 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.”
Supt Smith was speaking at a town hall scrutiny committee meeting and took questions from the panel of Labour members.
Speaking about the pursuit of moped criminals, he said the belief of many that if they take their helmets off police won’t pursue 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.”
Operation Venice 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 supersoaker 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 mobile phone 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.”
When 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.”
The subject of acid attacks also came up, and Supt Smith said the rolling yearly figures were showing a decrease in the number of attacks.
He said attacks were mostly revenge and that Newham was the worst place for it. He had not heard of acid attacks being committed as a gang initiation, which is more commonly a stabbing.
Supt Smith added that the case of Derryck John, who was jailed last week for a string of attacks in one night across east London, was a one off.
“Arthur Collins could have used anything, but he used acid,” he explained, adding that the use of acid on random people was rare. “The number of times where it’s enabling a theft are very low – one a week and it’s going down. The majority of are revenge attacks.
“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, but Supt Smith acknowledged sometimes the people best placed to talk to youngsters about such issues aren’t police officers.