92 motorbikes stolen in just eight weeks

A senior police officer has warned that “someone is going to get hurt” after it emerged that gangs of motorcycle thieves are behind a spate of bike thefts in Northumberland. Detective Chief Inspector Paul Knox issued the warning after 92 motorcycles were stolen in Newcastle and Gateshead in just eight weeks.

Motorcycle thieves have been spotted roaming the cities in groups of three or four looking for bikes to steal. They have proved capable of snapping steering locks and cutting chains in no time at all, sometimes stealing poorly-secured bikes in a matter of seconds. Police have also warned that the gangs often follow riders home and then strike late at night.

In an attempt to curb this crimewave, Northumbria Police have now set up ‘Operation Benelli’, manned by a specialist team of experienced motorcycle crime officers. The team has already reported strong success, tracking down over half the bikes stolen since April and making dozens of arrests.

But DCI Knox says there’s still a long way to go. “It’s a real concern and only a matter of time before somebody gets hurt, either a member of the public, another road user or one of the kids themselves,” said DCI Knox. “These are little teams of thieves stealing motorbikes.”

In keeping with experiences in London, the gangs are bold, often operating in broad daylight in busy areas and the police say many of the thieves are not hardened criminals, but youngsters looking to make a fast buck.

DCI Knox added: “These kids are taking bikes that they then use to commit other petty crimes. Some of those involved are just 13 or 14 years of age.

“They are riding without proper helmets and are also doing dangerous manoeuvres like going over the grass and up over pavements. They present a significant risk to road users.

“We have now got a team of six officers dedicated to this issue and they are taking a really pro-active approach. Our motor patrols team are engaged in this, too, but that does present risks and we have to be very careful about precisely what tactics we deploy.

“But there are also some real basics owners can do to stop them. A simple disc lock would help stop them. Just secure your bike, make it difficult to steal,” he advises.

Moped robber jailed

A moped-mounted armed robber has been jailed for seven years. Jason Abraham, 23, of Islington, was sentenced for his part in a brazen armed robbery in May. He was one of a group using mopeds, hammers and a machete to steal from a jewellers but was detained by members of the public before police arrived to make an arrest.

“We’re pleased we’ve put one member behind bars so quickly,” said Detective Sergeant Kieran Curry. “We’re grateful to the members of the public who risked their safety to stop him fleeing the scene.”

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