'Tactical' collisions a 'huge deterrent' to moped crooks, says top cop in Islington and Camden
PUBLISHED: 12:22 13 July 2018 | UPDATED: 10:17 16 July 2018
A confrontational approach from the Met is the prime reason behind a 65 per cent reduction in moped crime in Camden and Islington according to the police officer leading the crackdown.
Inspector Jamie Fowler - who leads Operation Venice in the two boroughs - told this newspaper: “Last year, clearly, we weren’t doing enough. You’d come in on a morning to see 70 incidents to investigate.
“Now our willingness to engage with moped thieves is a huge deterrent. We’re more than capable of chasing them and making tactical contact if we need to.”
The statistics are staggering. In June 2017 alone, over 1,300 scooter-enabled crimes were recorded. However this fell to less than 140 in June this year. Then the first eight days of July last year alone saw 329 moped snatches in Camden and Islington,
This year that figure has been slashed to 29, and at the time of writing there hasn’t been a moped snatch for three days.
Tactical contact – deliberately running into moped riders to prevent them getting away – has been hugely successful according to Insp Fowler.
“The public were quite nervous about it, but now we see it’s certainly the biggest deterrent.
“You used to get the moped riders taking their helmets off and saying – wrongly – ‘you can’t chase us now’ but that’s not the case.”
Despite fears that crashing into moped-riders to stop them escaping could cause serious injury, Insp Fowler said this hadn’t been the case.
“So far we haven’t known of any injuries more than the odd cuts and grazes. At one point the public were worried we’d be likely to kill these people – but now if you follow Twitter you can really see the support for it as a tactic.”
Every police response car in the boroughs is now equipped with a DNA spray, which can help tie criminals to the scene of crimes, and stays on clothes and property for around six weeks.
“If we’re not able to chase for whatever reason, we’re able to spray them and then follow it up by other means, it’s a brilliant tool” he said.
However, Insp Fowler said the police’s approach was about more than just crashes and chases, he also attributed to fall in moped crime to the police’s willingness to follow unconventional avenues to deter those responsible.
“We’ll try to find their Achilles’ heel. We look at if they’re properly licenced for the mopeds, and then if they’re committing crime, they’re often also committing anti-social behaviour – so there’s the threat of losing their home if they live in council-owned property.” Operation Venice also encompasses an investigations team who aim at the level above the street.
At a public meeting held in West Hampstead in early June, local people raised the question of what happened to the masses of phones stolen by moped thieves. There was a suggestion that phones were funnelled through the Finsbury Park area.
Insp Fowler wasn’t able to go into specific details, but he said: “We have strong intelligence that certain shops are acting as ‘fences’ in some areas. Just a few weeks ago we recovered £20,000 worth of stolen phones in Haringey, for example.”
The final element of the police’s three-pronged approach is increasing awareness. They want people to be more aware of the risk of having a phone snatched, and don’t want people to shrug off the crime.
“There was a danger at times that it was seen as an almost victimless crime. You’d get your phone replaced on insurance and move on. We want the public to report every crime.”
So, how did moped crime spiral out of control in Camden and Islington last year then? Insp Fowler has a theory.
He said: “I think sometimes people underestimate the intelligence of the criminals. They’re doing this full-time and making serious money.
“They know where my officers patrol, they know the busiest streets and the best places to get away.”
Despite the progress made, Insp Fowler isn’t resting on his laurels. He said: “We’ve made huge reductions but the hotspots are still the same as they were, places towards the city centre, the EC1 and WC1 postcodes.
“We’re still working extremely hard.
“The moment we step away we don’t want the problem to come back. So we’re still working hard, officers working overtime, and we’re not ever going to be at a point where we’re calling this a success.”