A gang of thieves who used mopeds to enable their crime spree of more than 100 robberies in a period of less than three weeks were jailed last week for a total of over 18 years.
Claude Parkinson, 18, was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court to five years and three months’ imprisonment, a 16-year-old boy from Islington, and 15-year-old boy from Islington (neither can be named for legal reasons) were each sentenced to four years and two months’ imprisonment. All three had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery at an earlier hearing at Southwark Crown Court on June 27. The fourth man, 40-year-old Shamsul Chowdhury, pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods, and was sentenced to four years and 10 months’ imprisonment.
Between April 18 and May 5, there were 212 robbery and snatch offences in Westminster - 83 of these were committed by this gang. Armed with weapons, the gang rode around the streets of London looking for victims carrying items of value, mainly mobile phones. They would then grab the items, while some victims were threatened with a hammer and a metal bar.
On one occasion, the gang were spotted by a fast-thinking photographer who captured a series of high-quality images of the gang, which enabled officers to track the gang on CCTV, mapping the routes the suspects used, and ultimately leading to their arrests. Mobile phone records led the officers to Chowdhury’s home address and found the phone used to send and receive messages from the group. They also found 30 smartphones, several laptops, £3000 in cash and a list of stolen phones which had been sold on.
Between April 5 and May 17, Chowdhury logged the receipt of 327 items – mostly mobile phones – with a noted combined value of £52,150. It has not been established if this was the price paid for the items or the money received for selling them on. Chowdhury is believed to have shipped some of the phones to Bangladesh.
Detective Superintendent Jess Ruddell of Westminster Police said: “Police are working hard to keep the public safe and make the streets hostile territory for criminals who steal scooters, mopeds, motorbikes and use them to commit other crimes.
"These suspects have been responsible for a huge number of crimes in London and have put members of the public in danger when committing their offences. Criminals such as these rely on the unwariness of the public to snatch their phones while they make calls, so it is important that the public is aware of their surroundings at all times and protect their personal property, particularly when emerging from a train or underground station or anywhere where they might suddenly decide to take out and use their phone. Smartphones are very valuable to these criminals and they can snatch them in an instant.
"I would like to thank the members of the public and media who provided us with clips and footage of the gang as they carried out their crimes. The footage and witness accounts used helped to secure the convictions.
"I would also like to thank DC Martin Thomas and his colleagues at Westminster Crime Squad for their tireless work in ensuring these three criminals have been brought to justice."
Two-wheeled crime in London
The thefts are part of a huge surge in two-wheeled crime in the capital. 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 (as above) 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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