Life on bikes

Vigilante groups starting to form against the moped gangs

London’s motorcycle crime situation has reached boiling point, with biker vigilantes being openly recruited to form a response to the criminal gangs terrorising the Capital’s motorcyclists.

A leaflet posted on the noticeboard of the Ace Cafe biker’s haunt in North West London put a call out for anyone interested in catching the teams of moped riders that have been stealing bikes in record numbers. Leaflets were also handed out to bikers visiting the cafe.

Although the number is obscured in a post shared on a Facebook group dedicated to sharing robbery reports, other posts featured the phone number. General sentiment in the comments below the photos echoed the desire to act against the bike thieves.

This follows a pattern of social media comments that reflect a growing anger at the perceived inability of police forces around the country to deal with the problem of gang-related motorcycle crime.

Because of its stance on motorcycle theft, Biker & Bike has also had a number of direct approaches from bikers offering to form vigilante groups.

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Police have for many years been ‘handcuffed’ by first ACPO and then NPCC (National Police Chiefs Council) guidelines that have severely restricted the number of authorised pursuits. But Individual officers still had some discretion in certain circumstances.

However, since the high-profile death of North London teenager Henry Hicks, following a pursuit by unmarked police cars and the subsequent charges of misconduct of the officers involved in the pursuit, officers have been far less ready to put their careers and livelihoods at risk.

This, combined with severely reduced resources – simply too few officers with the right qualifications to conduct a pursuit – has led to an explosion of motorcycle related crime – up 1000% in London in the last three years – as thieves act knowing there is very little chance of being pursued.

As well as a reduction in the number of authorised pursuits, officers who are given permission to chase are then hampered by instructions to stand down if the moped-riding thieves mount the pavement or remove their helmets during the chase, as this is seen as a sign that the thieves have no intention to stop.

Officers, fearful of prosecution if they fail to get authorisation or if a thief is injured during a pursuit, are known to be extremely frustrated at the situation.

It’s thought there is a hardcore of 9-11 gangs operating out of estates in Isleworth, Fulham, Battersea, Camden, Islington, Southwark, Roehampton and Dagenham, with other smaller units operating around the Capital. The gangs cooperate with each other and there are close connections to the BikeLife movement.

However, although this particular note is specific to London, there have been vigilante calls in other cities including Bristol, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Liverpool.

The reference to ‘TMAX hunting’ in the notice pinned up in the Ace Cafe is linked to the gangs’ preference for using the high-powered scooter.

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The choice of the noticeboard in the Ace Cafe is particularly interesting because it is widely understood that members of the gangs have been attending the hugely popular ‘Bike Nights’ held at the cafe. The note may be seen as an open warning to them that their presence is no longer tolerated.

It’s currently not known how many people have contacted the person behind the note, Jack Th’Lad. For the past year, comments on social media have increased in ferocity with threats of violence and death promised by posters catching thieves. So far there have been no reports of any specific vigilante acts towards identified members of the gangs.

Serious injury or worse could face anyone attempting to take the law into their own hands. There’s no doubt that many of the thieves featured in the proliferation of videos run scared when confronted. There are however a number of people within the gangs who are known to be extremely violent.

The gangs carry hammers, knives and in one reported incident, acid was used against a biker who attempted to intervene in the theft of a sportsbike from a busy shopping centre. Some thieves also use battery-powered angle grinders to cut through security and there have been cases where members of the public have been threatened with the grinders. For this reason, police advise not approaching the gangs during a theft.

There’s no doubt that vigilantism is not the answer to inner-city motorcycle crime. The note in the Ace Cafe may not seem significant to some, but the NPCC and indeed the Home Office should take this as a very serious sign that the limited pursuit policy is causing more problems than it is intended to solve.

The motorcycling population now needs to be better protected, before it takes matters into its own hands.

Get yourself sorted:

Don’t take the matter into your own hands. If you see or have evidence of a motorcycle theft report it to the police. While pursuits may not always be possible, the police are increasingly acting on information and raids and arrests are happening.

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B&B Staff

B&B Staff