Lone motorcyclists are being warned not to enter a Tyneside estate after a sharp rise in what local gangs call “crowding” – surrounding a rider until he is intimidated into giving up his machine.
Unofficially, Northumbria Police say the thefts - in the Benwell area of Newcastle - are reaching one a day. Five thefts were reported in one weekend. Most occur during the early morning or late at night and all on quiet side streets.
Sometimes a Good Samaritan rider stops to help a person he thinks is in trouble or injured and is immediately surrounded by a group of up to 12 youths. Other attacks happen when a rider stops at road junctions.
“It is rare for any physical violence to be used in these thefts,” explained a police officer investigating the attacks. “But the threatening behavior and intimidation is enough to make most people, particularly women on their own, get off and run.
“This is a very nasty trend and, at the moment, seems to be confined to the east end of Newcastle,” he added. The officer refused to admit Benwell was now a no-go area for bikers, but added: “Personally I would think twice before riding through during the night.”
The latest warning comes after a court was told how a 19-year-old woman was ambushed in Adelaide Terrace, Benwell, and had her scooter stolen by a gang of youths.