Phone thieves ‘blending in with commuters’ by wearing hi-vis cycling gear and helmets, say Hackney police

Phone thieves are disguising themselves as commuters and targeting rush hour hotspots. Picture: Ramz

Phone thieves are disguising themselves as commuters and targeting rush hour hotspots. Picture: Ramzy Alwakeel - Credit: Archant

Phone thieves are disguising themselves as commuting cyclists at rush hour by wearing hi-vis jackets and helmets, police have warned.

Hackney police say over the last year there has been a rise in devices being swiped by people on bikes in high footfall areas such as Shoreditch, Hoxton, Bethnal Green and Dalston.

The trend is now more common than moped snatches, which still happen but are far less frequent due in large part to the success of the Met's Operation Venice.

The thieves tend to be teenage boys on bicycles or men on e-bikes, according to Sgt Vincent Boughton.

He leads the Robbery Task Force (RTF) that launched in May to tackle street robberies and phone snatches under Operation Trebbiano.

The RTF was set up by the Central East area of Hackney and Tower Hamlets and involves dedicated officers patrolling in unmarked cars and on bikes, targeting known criminals with an array of tactics including stop and search.

Since it launched, the 12 officers have helped stunt the rise of snatches, making more than 240 arrests, with 116 for robbery or theft of person.

Most Read

"There does seem to be a recent rise in the trend of mobile phones being stolen from the hands of users," said Sgt Boughton.

"These areas are high footfall areas both during rush hours and on weekends with the night-time economy.

"Suspects tend to either be teenage boys on bicycles or males on electric-powered pedal cycles, dressed as 'professional commuters' i.e. in traditional cycle clothing with helmets and snoods, face coverings or balaclavas.

"Suspects are even known to wear high-visibility clothing, in a bid to blend in with their surroundings.

"Offences occur mainly during commuting times, around 7am to 9am and from 4pm to 9pm."

Earlier this month one man was charged after police, who saw him acting suspiciously and chased him, found a large knife that had been dumped nearby.

Another man was stopped and searched and found to be in possession of £5,000 worth of class A drugs, with more seized from his home.

When the RTF launched in May there were 671 thefts and robberies of the person across both boroughs, compared to 605 in September.