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Call for action over soaring epidemic of moped muggings in Camden and Haringey

PUBLISHED: 05:59 04 May 2017 | UPDATED: 11:18 05 May 2017

Moped-riding thieves are causing fear and frustration among residents.         Picture: MPS

Moped-riding thieves are causing fear and frustration among residents. Picture: MPS

PA Archive/PA Images

Alarmed residents are calling for action against a chilling rise in moped muggers targeting the area.

Hundreds of victims and witnesses have taken to social media in the face of the growing ‘epidemic’ as thieves on mopeds mount the pavement to snatch phones and belongings from shocked pedestrians.

Anger and frustration is growing as police visibly take no action, refusing to chase them for fear of causing the death of either a moped rider or innocent passer by.

The opportunistic muggers know this and in some incidents throw off their helmets if a pursuit begins - knowing the police will have to call off the chase.

When the Ham&High asked readers to contact us with their stories we were inundated with alarming examples of the soaring numbers of ‘snatch-and-grab’ thefts which has become a daily occurrence in Hampstead, Muswell Hill and surrounding streets.

We received reports of around 50 attacks in the last month - more than one a day - but true figures are likely to be far higher.

Some reported muggers carrying weapons like knives and hammers.

Police statistics reflect this epidemic showing that in March Camden saw a 30.46 per cent rise in “theft of person” crimes on February, while Haringey saw a 20.57pc rise. In Barnet, the increase was 56.19pc,

But officers insist they are taking action behind the scenes in covert operations to disrupt the gangs and ‘make the streets hostile territory.’ - although residents are frustrated they are not seeing the effects.

Just last week Hampstead police reported three victims having their mobile phones snatched by robbers on mopeds with incidents in South End Road and Pond Street in Hamsptead and Aspern Grove in Belsize Park on Monday and Tuesday.

In Muswell Hill, Pc Sharon Rogers tweeted a warning after phone thefts in Colney Hatch Lane involving two scooters on Monday.

She said: “ALERT. Phone snatches in Conley Hatch Lane and N11 yesterday. 2 scooters involved, one red, one black. Please be aware of your surroundings.”

Victim Rachael Power, 32, told the Ham&High she was “shocked” and left feeling vulnerable after a “horrible” moped-enabled theft near her Muswell Hill home on March 24.

Her iPhone 6 was grabbed out of her hands as she was texting in Colney Hatch Lane – with her headphones still attached.

Police told her there was nothing they could do – with Ms Powers saying they were “frustrated” by their inability to act.

She said: “It’s becoming rife in the area. They need to come up with an alternative way of dealing with this because it’s becoming absurd.”

Other examples of victims who contacted us include:

* A heavily pregnant woman who had her phone snatched at a bus stop in Crouch End Hill at around 5:45pm on April 24. The gang then moved on to grab a phone from an elderly man in the same spot.

* 25-year-old Daisy Johns had her headphones yanked off her ears and mobile snatched by a moped rider driving the wrong way up a bus lane as she stood alone waiting for a bus near Archway tube station at around 9am on March 26. Her mother Avis told us: “It is very frightening. It was witnessed by a police officer who then contacted her the next day to say the case was closed.”

* A man had his phone snatched on the zebra crossing outside Hampstead Heath station last Thursday at around 4pm.

* Gospel Oak’s prospective Conservative councillor, Henry Newman, told how he had his phone snatched while campaigning in Chetwynd Road, Dartmouth Park, on April 10.

* A woman had her shoulder dislocated by moped robbers who snatched her handbag in Raydon Street, Dartmouth Park, last month.

Facebook groups such as Hampstead Mums and Muswell Hill and Friends have seen outpourings of frustration with people calling for action.

Brad Fairhead said: “I had my scooter stolen recently and police said it would likely be used to steal mobile phones on the street. When i said that the thieves were probably on cctv (via planet organic) they suggested I “go and ask the manager”. The very next morning I had a letter from the Police saying the case was closed. They’re not taking it seriously enough.”

Jam Rich said: “Let’s not look at this story without considering the fact the police budget has been slashed in recent years.”

Sam Wright added: “Police should not be investigated for chasing criminals. If you fall off or die while fleeing police tough that’s your choice, an occupational hazard.”

But Det Ch Insp Steve Heatley from the Met’s Road and Transport Command told the Ham&High police are working hard to make the streets “hostile territory” for moped-riding thieves.

He said: “It is important that the public are aware of their surroundings at all times and protect their personal property, as this crime happens in an instant. I would urge people to consider using a hands-free device to make a call and do not text or use apps by the roadside, where they are most vulnerable to snatch-theft.”

But he also added: “The Met wants to get across the fact that this crime is highly dangerous to the perpetrator and that they are putting themselves in danger.”

The crime is being tackled by two separate operations – London-wide Venice and Camden and Islington’s Attrition – and police patrol the streets daily.

They also stress that people should report a theft immediately, register phones at immobilise.com and learn their IMEI number by dialling *#06#

Crime campaigner Jessica Learmond-Criqui, who chairs Fitzjohns and Frognal safer neighbourhood panel, said: “Today’s modern fast paced hi tech world, the use of mobiles in public is the norm. While people should be vigilant and protect themselves they also expect a certain level of protection from the police.

“In today’s modern fast paced hi tech world, the use of mobiles in public is the norm. While people should be vigilant and protect themselves they also expect a certain level of protection from the police.

“Moped snatches have become easy for perpetrators because of Met policy of not chasing them which has emboldened riders to a point now where there is an epidemic of them which the met can’t stop. It is their job to stop it. They must do more.

She added: “The Met must demand more resources from the government to do their job properly and not just be passive about cuts made to their budget. In being passive they do a disservice to the public.”


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