Crushing defeat: Tough new approach will see destroyed bikes displayed in town centre

Superintendent Kev Mulligan from Northants Police
Superintendent Kev Mulligan from Northants Police

Police in Corby, Northamptonshire, are taking the bold step of crushing confiscated bikes and using the resultant cube of metal as a warning to those who continue to ride illegally.

The area has seen a spike in the dangerous use of pit bikes, mopeds and motocross machines in public spaces during coronavirus lockdown and it is hoped this new tactic will help to curb the practice.

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"It’s important to make it clear that the bikes we’re crushing aren’t the motorcycles of law-abiding riders," said Superintendent Kev Mulligan from Northants Police. "These are not bikers, there’s a difference. These are people, primarily youngsters but not exclusively, who are riding on unroadworthy bikes 99% of the time that are either stolen or so dangerous that it beggars belief.

"Our obligation when policing this issue is first and foremost centred around community safety, to the safety of those legitimately using woodland trails, community open spaces and parks.

"Secondly, it’s about the local residents and businesses who are pestered and having to suffer from the practice taking place on their doorstep.

"But it’s also about the safety of the riders of these machines because in a lot of cases there’s no real awareness of the consequences if they have an off."

Seized motorcycle headed for the crusher

The bikes are only crushed if they are deemed unroadworthy, are stolen and have no obvious legitimate owner, or they have a rightful owner but they’ve been issued with previous antisocial behaviour notices as a result of using the machine with the threat of it being destroyed.

The crushing itself was originally planned as a public event, but due to restrictions on mass gatherings the decision was taken to film it and then display the cube of mangled machinery outside The Corby Cube municipal building in the town.

Superintendent Mulligan added: "Some are seeing the lockdown as a perfect storm for this activity, but we’re seeing it as an opportunity to get positive. While it’s absolutely right that we take a strong hand in this sort of crime, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the opportunity to engage with individuals so that they potentially become responsible bikers or drivers when they’re able to, either through age or by gaining a licence."

Is antisocial riding on the rise?

"This is an annual issue with peaks and troughs," explained Superintendent Kev Mulligan. "We usually see spikes in the summer while the schools are on holiday and around Christmas because people receive these sorts of bikes as presents so it has a seasonality, and police across the UK never lose sight of it.

"The coronavirus pandemic meant an extended period of time when the people who engage in this activity were given free rein in empty public spaces and at the same time there have been lots of residents at home seven days a week to see it happening, film it and report it."

Bike criminals busted by police crackdown

First published on 2 July 2020 by Ben Clarke

Motorcycles seized in Northumberland

A police taskforce targeting bike thieves and antisocial riders has reported huge success. The unit was set up to combat a spike in bike theft as lockdown measures eased.

Officers were also determined to clamp down on activity where a bike or moped was used to commit a crime after a surge in reports of teenage thieves targeting bikes left on driveways and in car parks across Northumbria. There were also reports that armed offenders were resorting to violence to take bikes by force.

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Summonses have now been issued to offenders and 14 bikes have been seized, two of which are suspected to have been stolen.

"The officers who have been working hard on this for the past six weeks have been phenomenal," said Neighbourhood Inspector Phil Baker.

"They have listened to the concerns of residents, identified where disorderly motorcycle riding has been taking place and then they have targeted those areas accordingly.

 "It is community policing at its best and has yielded some fantastic results. A number of individuals riding the motorcycles have been summonsed to court and residents across South Shields are satisfied with our activity."

Motorcycle seized by police

The special project is part of Operation Benelli, a team of experienced and specialist officers who review every incident where a bike has been used as part of a crime and try to spot patterns of behaviour.

Victims are also spoken to in a bid to build up an intelligence picture of those involved in the crimes. Antisocial riding is a blight on communities and can make the lives of those who have to put up with it a misery as well as being a real danger to people looking to use open spaces, parks and pavements legitimately.

Stolen bikes often go on to be used in further crimes and tracking down antisocial riders has led officers to discover drugs, weapons, money and other stolen property.

Sergeant Fran Joyce, who oversees Operation Benelli, added: "We continue to monitor those patterns of behaviour. A lot of this is teenagers riding at speed on their bikes and causing a nuisance but often these same individuals are involved in serious criminality.

"We won’t tolerate theft or violence in our communities and if we suspect individuals are involved in criminality we seize their motorcycles and they could end up before the courts."

Cops seize vans too

Police in Manchester have been targeting anti-social riders and have started to seize vans used to transport the machines causing the nuisance.

Officers have the power to seize vehicles being used in an anti-social manner if they are causing, or likely to cause alarm, distress or annoyance or contravene section 34 (prohibition of off-road driving/driving other than a road) of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

Greater Manchester Police seized a branded work van at Bickershaw country park along with several bikes. Imagine explaining that to your boss!

Operation Venice: A day in the life of a Met bike crime cop

First published on June 25 by Jordan Gibbons

Operation Venice officers stop a suspect

Met Police have given details on what a typical shift's work is like for Operation Venice – the specialist unit set up in 2017 to combat motorcycle theft and moped-related crime. Since then, there has been a drop of 70% in some parts of London, but sadly their work is far from over.

Details are now emerging of what took place over the May Bank Holiday, with many people stopped despite the country already being in lockdown. The evening shift got going at 7pm and only half an hour later officers arrested a man in Camden for riding a motorcycle dangerously.

The 28-year-old from Lambeth was later charged with dangerous driving, riding without insurance, failing to stop for police and driving a vehicle otherwise than in accordance with a licence.

Just over an hour later, officers in a marked car in N17 saw a scooter travelling in the opposite direction that they then stopped, with a view to establishing the rider's identity. The rider initially provided false details but Op Venice officers are prepared for this and carry mobile fingerprint scanners.

The rider's details were checked and they did not match those of the scooter owner; the owner was then contacted who informed the police he had not given the rider permission to ride the bike. Upon searching under the seat, officers found a quantity of drugs, while more were found on the rider.

Operation Venice officers find items inside scooter

The rider was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply Class A drugs, possession with intent to supply Class B drugs, theft of a motor vehicle, driving without insurance and driving a vehicle otherwise than in accordance with a licence.

Three hours later, officers stopped another man in W2, arresting him on suspicion of drink driving and of driving without insurance.

Speaking about the evening, Sergeant Tony McGovern, from the Met's Operation Venice's Scorpion Unit, said: "My officers were out in force over the Bank Holiday primarily targeting moped-enabled crime.

"However, we are also on hand to disrupt those who are using the roads to commit criminality, drive at extreme speeds and who drink and drive. In doing so, these people's actions increase the risk to their own safety and that of other road users."

Plain-clothed officers to be armed with anti-theft spray

First published on June 22 by Ben Clarke

DNA spray will be used as part of Operation Swift in Northumberland

Officers working as part of Operation Swift in Northumberland have been given a boost in their battle against theft and anti-social riding in the district.

Plain clothed officers now have DNA spray canisters to tag offenders and the bike they are riding with a uniquely coded UV solution.

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This can later be used as evidence to prove the suspect was involved in a specific crime and tie them to any vehicle used. The technique has already been used successfully in neighbouring South Shields, Gateshead and Newcastle. Investigations have revealed that many of the bikes being used illegally on the streets, pavements and parks of Northumberland are stolen.

"We know this type criminality can be of huge concern and I want to reassure the public that we do take it seriously," said Neighbourhood Inspector Neil Hall, one of the officers overseeing the operation.

"We have spoken to members of the community on this particular issue and are committed to working with partners to ensure anybody who does flout the law and brings misery to our residents is appropriately dealt with.

"There may be some who think these are just bored teenagers who have nowhere suitable to ride their motorcycles, but that is not always the case. Many of the individuals have been involved in serious offences and a lot of the machines are actually stolen.

"That's why we are committed to taking a proactive approach in tackling this with plain-clothed and uniformed officers regularly on patrol in identified hotspot areas. The spray is a fantastic piece of kit which has already proved to be effective elsewhere."

Last year, Northumbria Police launched Operation Benelli, a specialist task-force who review every crime where a motorcycle has been used to commit an offence or where a motorcycle has been stolen. It has had a number of successes with hundreds of stolen bikes seized, dozens arrested and a number of convictions.

They will be working alongside neighbourhood teams across the Force to tackle this type of crime and target patrols where they find patterns of criminality. Officers are keen to keep the momentum going and stamp out the problem all together.

Insp Hall added: "DNA spray is just one of our methods. We will also be looking at preventive measures including engaging with those involved to educate them."

Zero tolerance policy sees Hull police recover stolen machines

First published 15 June 2020 by Ben Clarke

Stolen motorcycles have been recovered by Hull police

Police in Hull discovered a treasure trove of stolen motorbikes after forcing entry to a property in the Holderness area of the city.

Included in the haul, which was part of an investigation into reports of stolen bikes being stored, were two bikes taken in 2017.

The discovery of a total of five pilfered machines comes against a backdrop of zero tolerance in Humberside as Chief Constable, Lee Freeman, vowed to create a hostile environment for criminals during lockdown.

Police in Hull have adopted a zero tolerance policy

"People have been staying at home and they have lost the opportunity to commit offences because of that," he said. "We have a responsibility to respond and tackle criminals who will be looking for opportunities to commit crime."

Although the force's five-week period of action, called Operation Galaxy, is intended to concentrate on the broader issues of theft, burglary, sexual offences and organised crime, at least one further motorbike has already been seized as a result.

Antisocial motorbike offences such as illegal off-road riding are also in the crosshairs as local residents complained of the 'daily problem' of people riding dangerously in public parks and on the roads and pavements.

"I want to take this opportunity to appeal again to the few young people who take their vehicles off road or ride in an anti-social way, please consider your actions," said Chief Superintendent Darren Downs of Humberside Police. "Riding this way causes frequent issues to local residents and can cause serious injury to you or others.

"We have been working hard recently to tackle the issues of illegal off-road bikes, of motorbike theft and related crimes and the anti-social use of motorcycles. Over 20 motorbikes have recently been seized as we continue Operation Yellowfin to specifically target these problems.

"If you know of where stolen bikes, scooters, mopeds are being stored, either in lockups and garages please let us know.

"The information you provide could help prevent crime and could prevent someone being seriously injured."

Since that warning was issued a nine-year-old boy was seriously injured after being hit by an off-road motorbike in a local park. A man was later arrested.

Northamptonshire Police take delivery of two Ducatis

Northamptonshire Police have taken delivery of two unusual police bikes in the form of a Ducati Panigale V2 and a Supersport S.

The bikes, which are to be used solely for public engagement purposes, were delivered to the force's headquarters at the end of May with special Police and BikeSafe liveries.

Superintendent Kev Mulligan said: "We are very grateful to have Ducati UK as one of our partners. When we go to BikeSafe events, riders are much more likely to talk to us when we ride bikes that interest them!"

Prison for 100mph bike chase criminal

First published 5 June 2020 by Ben Clarke

Corey Briscoe-McLeary led police on a 45-minute chase

A man who led police on a 45-minute chase through London on a motorbike has been jailed for eight months and disqualified from driving for 18 months.

Corey Briscoe-McLeary, 38, of Janson Close, NW10, was finally brought to a halt when a stinger was deployed by officers from Operation Venice, but not before he had clocked speeds of up to 100mph in 30mph zones and mounted pavements.

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Briscoe-Mcleary was brought to the attention of Op Venice officers by the National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopter operator after the crew saw him riding at speed and acting suspiciously. He entered Brent Cross shopping centre car park briefly before heading north on the M1 into Hertfordshire.

"I have been a police officer for 15 years and the manner of riding displayed in this incident was one of the worst examples I have ever seen," said Sergeant Tony McGovern, the officer in charge of the Operation Venice Scorpion Unit who deployed the stinger.

"It was highly dangerous and this individual put his own life, and the life of other members of the public, in serious danger - this was without police units in direct pursuit.

"The main focus of everyone involved in this incident was bringing it to a safe conclusion. We could not let the high powered motorcycle to continue being ridden in the manner it was – to allow it to continue would have posed even further serious risk to the public. It was clear Briscoe-McLeary was willing to take high risks to evade capture, and I am pleased that the actions taken prevented serious injury or worse coming to members of the public and the rider himself.

"The reckless actions of Briscoe-McLeary during this incident show his clear lack of consideration or care for the judicial system, the public or the police. With colleagues across the Met, Operation Venice will continue to identify and pursue those intent on committing violent and audacious crimes on the streets of London."

Briscoe-McLeary was also sentenced for offences he was wanted for prior to the dangerous driving incident including battery, possession of a class A drug (cocaine), possession of a class B drug (cannabis) and breach of a conditional discharge. The sentences will run concurrently, making his total imprisonment eight months.

 Officers deployed a stinger to bring the chase to an end

Thugs locked up

Two men who stole a Rolex worth £30,000 from a woman in Chelsea and threatened her with an axe before making their getaway on a moped have received jail sentences.

Connor Murphy, 26 of Salters Road, W10, was jailed for six years and nine months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery and Richard Walsh, 29 of Ashburnham Road, Chelsea, SW10, was sentenced to four years and nine months' imprisonment after pleading guilty to encouraging/assisting a robbery.

Detective Sergeant Chris Taylor, said: "This was a terrifying robbery."

Video interview: new BMW F750GS-P is a lean, mean thief-busting machine

First published 9 March 2020 by Ben Clarke

As MCN reported at the end of January, London's Metropolitan Police have taken delivery of a new fleet of BMW F750GS-P bikes to help in the fight against bike and scooter crime in the capital.

To make sure the bikes were well-suited for the job, BMW consulted PC Clem Jones, a 'scorpion' officer from Operation Venice, who told MCN how it's been adapted.

"The BMW isn't a conventional police bike in the sense of having a wide presence," he said. "It's very streamlined and the back has been slimmed-down to enable us to go the same places the mopeds go – that's the core aspect behind it."

To achieve this, traditional panniers and blue light 'wand' have been ditched in favour of a clean tail unit and centrally-mounted LED light.

Jones emphasised that creating a new police bike isn't as simple as buying a new model and putting stickers and lights on it, saying: "To an every day member of the public, they probably think that but the level of testing and development that goes into these bikes is phenomenal.

"Every police-spec component that's added has to be tested so that it doesn't interfere with another aspect of the bike including the electronics and ECU. When these go out operationally, they need to be reliable and they need to function."

Jones said that an early iteration of the new LED lighting was found to interfere with the bike's communications so was redesigned.

Along with the new tail, the bikes also get lights and sirens at to the front, a communications system, a BMW factory satnav and additional crash bars.

BMW F750GS-P comms system

The F750GS-P is a direct result of the working relationship the Met have with BMW and the bikes are already attracting attention from other forces in the UK who are trying to tackle moped and scooter crime.

Scott Grimsdall of BMW UK said only a brand with a global presence in emergency vehicles could provide this kind of collaboration and result.

"We're very pleased to assist the Metropolitan Police with their efforts to tackle moped crime. The F750GS has the agility and versatility to take on all terrains and is uniquely suited to navigate London's busy streets swiftly and with precision."

Seven special BMW F750GSs help police fight against bike thieves

First published 22 January 2019 by Jordan Gibbons

Met Police with their new fleet of BMW F750GS-P motorbikes

London's Metropolitan Police have expanded their bike thief catching capability by investing in a fleet of small, agile motorcycles that are well suited to inner city chases.

The seven machines, which were unveiled last week, are to be used by specially-trained 'scorpion' officers who form part of the Met's Operation Venice – a dedicated task force to stem the capital's rise in motorcycle theft and moped-related crime.

The new BMW F750GS-Ps have been specially-tailored to the specific requirements of the police riders who'll use them. The Met say that they are well-suited to navigation through London, with their small size and low weight making them more capable of chasing thieves on mopeds than pursuit cars, R1200RTs or R1250RTs.

The bikes have undergone a bespoke redesign with BMW who have been able to fit all the kit needed by officers, such as sirens and radios, without adding any bulk.

Powered by an 850cc parallel twin, the Met say the new bikes offer more than enough shove while also bringing helpful technology such as traction control, ABS and electronic suspension. The Met are the only police force using these bikes for this purpose.

Chief Inspector Jim Corbett, from the Met's Operation Venice team, said: "Although my officers have, and continue, to reduce moped-enabled crime, we are not complacent and know that offenders still believe they can evade capture when on mopeds.

"These new vehicles will allow our specialist drivers to pursue offenders. Their lightweight design has been specially tailored to help us reduce moped-enabled crime even further."

Met Police officers line up with a new fleet of BMW F750GS-Ps

The Met are very proud of the results achieved with Operation Venice, having considerably cut moped-related crime since a peak in July 2017.

Between December 2017 and November 2018, there were 15,168 mopeds, motorcycles and scooters used in offences. In the same period in 2019 this number fell by 42.5% while motorcycle theft fell by 12.5%.

He added: "Whilst we're pleased to see the number of stolen vehicles and crimes committed reduce, we are calling on the public to help us reduce moped- enabled crime even further by informing the police of any suspicious activity and adding extra security to their bikes."

New police video targets bike crime

First published 11 February 2019 by Ben Clarke

A police motorcycle crime cartoon

A hard-hitting police video has been released in a bid to cut bike crime and stop scooter thieves terrorising UK streets.

The short video is part of the Met Police force's 'Lock, Chain, Cover' and shows just how much crime can be committed on a stolen machine in just one day. The animation shows a stolen scooter used in several crimes including phone snatches, a ram raid on a jewellery shop and fuel theft. The crime spree is finally brought to an end when officers use tactical contact to stop the offenders in their tracks.

The force say the video highlights the importance of securing your vehicle properly to deter thieves and, "shows how a stolen machine can be used to commit multiple crimes around London affecting several victims."

It also sends out a clear message that police officers are prepared to use tactical contact when appropriate to bring bike thieves to justice. If you want to speak to the Met about tactical contact, bike crime or anything else (within reason) you can find them at the Carole Nash MCN London Motorcycle Show between Friday, February 14 and Sunday, February 16.

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Police deploy clever tech to crack crime

First published 11 December 2019 by Ben Clarke

Police work with anti-theft group to recover stolen motorbike

Britain's leading bike crime expert says that despite a reduction in UK thefts, it's still a massive problem and has outlined how police are turning to social media and modern tech in a bid to stem the flow of stolen motorcycles.

Dr Ken German, who spent 25 years with the Met's stolen vehicle squad, told MCN that theft figures for 2019 are expected to hit 24,000 bikes, taking the tally for the last five years to 141,000 machines with a total value of £156m. 

He said: "Only 45% of these will be recovered, leaving 63,400 machines still unaccounted for all presumably cloned, exported or more likely stripped into component parts and sold."

Theft figures aren't available for all EU countries but with France losing machines at an annual rate of 41,198, Italy 39,029, Germany 14,200 and Spain 8000, Dr German says the black market in motorcycle salvage is huge.

Here are Ken German's top tips for deterring thieves…

  • Lock - Use a disc lock or a grip lock to secure the brake and throttle controls. You could also use a D-lock on the front wheel to stop it being wheeled away.
  • Chain - Use a chain lock through the back wheel. Secure your bike to an immovable object such as a ground anchor or street furniture. Don't leave any links trailing on the ground.
  • Cover - Thieves often 'shop' for particular models. Using a cover makes your bike less attractive to them

Dr German said that the police in the UK are deploying CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Reader (ANPR) cameras in the fight against the criminals and recommend tracking devices, which lead to stolen motorbike recovery in 92% of cases where there's an active signal.

Police are also fans of hidden DNA marks and passive transponders because they positively identify stolen machines and are often overlooked by the thieves.

Social media and rider groups play a part too, Dr German said: "The stolen vehicle social media pages give officers information on who is doing what and where. Without these aids, motorcycle theft would spiral out of control and forces are therefore working alongside selected volunteer recovery groups rather than branding them vigilantes."

Taking responsibility for your own security is also key in fighting back against bike crime. He said: "Choosing locks and chains, alarms, immobilisers and covers is still hugely important in trying to prevent your machine being stolen. Basic security dissuades 30% of thieves from stealing a motorcycle so everyone has a part to play in stopping this stealing spree."

Dr German is still astounded that seven out of ten owners still do not lock their machines when parked up. He said: "The fact it's 'only' 24,000 bikes is a bit of a result, when you consider that this number of victims standing side by side would constitute a queue nine times around Brands Hatch; it does make you think."

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Ben Clarke

By Ben Clarke

Staff Writer, hick for life, two cylinders max