What can be done about bike crime?

Published: 05 October 2017

It seems that almost every day a new video is posted online that shows bike thieves in London stealing somebody's pride and joy, or tustling with the owner as they refuse to let their bike go without a fight.

It's even got so bad that vigilante groups have reportedly started popping up across London to try an stop the thieves. The Metropolitan Police are stuck between a rock and a hard place. In 2014 officers were pursuing 18-year-old Henry Hicks through London, when the suspect crashed and subsequently died. Since then the Metropolitan Police have been reluctant to chase suspects on two wheels. 

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Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions recently, Heeley MP Louise Haigh claimed that many forces have a 'blanket ban' on chasing anyone who is on a scooter or motorbike and asked Prime Minister Theresa May to change the law to protect officers pursuing suspects on two wheels.

Home office to review pursuit laws

Now it's been revealed the Home Office will now review police chase laws after officials warned that police officers feared being taken to court for engaging in high speed chases.

The review comes after the recent surge in two-wheeled crime within London, and claims that the current regime is hampering the ability of officers to pursue suspects, particularly if the suspects are not wearing a helmet.

Despite the officers' fears, there is currently no ban on police pursuing motorcyclists who are not wearing helmets. The College of Policing's guidance says: “There may be a public interest in engaging motorcycles… in pursuits. Where such vehicles are used to facilitate serious crime or used repeatedly as the mode of transport for organised crime groups then, to minimise risk to the public from criminality and to secure public confidence in policing, a pursuit may be justified.”

Tim Rogers of the Police Federation said: "Momentum has been gathering in recent months and this marks a significant step in bringing about the change we feel is necessary.

"Trained professionals are being judged by the same standards as a member of the public in any normal driving situation with no differentiation in law to recognise the professional training emergency response drivers undertake."

The review will consider whether officers should be given greater legal protections, as well as updating guidance and practice on pursuits and response driving.

Currently all emergency services, including the police, are exempt from speed limit, traffic light and sign violations when undertaking an emergency service response, but they do remain subject to the general road traffic law in the same way as members of the public - including the law on careless and dangerous driving.

Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, Nick Hurd said: “This Government is determined to get ahead of and tackle emerging threats like motorcycle-related crimes, including those involving mopeds and scooters. People must be able to go about their daily lives without fear of harassment or attack and criminals must not think they can get away with a crime by riding or driving in a certain way or on a certain type of vehicle.

“Tackling this emerging crime will take a combined effort from Government, law enforcement, industry partners and civil society. However, police have made us aware of the concern among some officers over the legal position when pursuing suspected offenders, including those on mopeds and scooters.

“While it is clearly vital that we protect public safety and that officers are accountable for their actions, it is also important that skilled officers have the confidence to protect the public by pursuing offenders where it is safe to do so.”

The numbers

From August 1 2015 to July 31 2016 there were 12,001 thefts of scooters, mopeds and motorcycles according to the Metropolitan Police. For the 12 months ending July 31 2017, there were 14,868 offences. Not a huge increase on the face of it, but the numbers of scooters, mopeds and motorcycles used in crime has shot up significantly. According to the Motorcycle Industry Association 60% of all recorded scooter thefts in the UK last year were in London, despite less than 10% of the UK's registered motorcycles and scooters being registered within the capital.

From August 1 2015 to July 31 2016 there were 5,647 offences with scooters, mopeds and motorcycles used in the crime. For the 12 months ending July 31 2017, that number ballooned up to 17,897.

Despite the huge increase, the Metroplitan Police say they are working hard to combat the situation. In 2015 the force launched Operation Venice, which tackles powered two wheeler theft and crimes involving powered two wheelers. "Operation Venice officers conduct targeted operations throughout London to prevent and detect moped theft," Director or Media and Communication at the Metropolitan Police Service Mark Ottowell said.

"The operations include mass checks on stationary and moving powered two wheelers, raids on individuals suspected of stealing motorcycles and mopeds or using them to commit crimes, high visibility patrols in key areas, Automatic Number Plate Reader deployments and provision of free locks to owners at motorcycle parking bays."

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