Life on bikes

Vigilantes vs motorbike thieves

Earlier this year (2016) a young guy was attacked with a hammer, so he would give up his moped.

A few months later, a video surfaced on YouTube of thieves using an angle grinder on a bike secured in a Kent shopping centre. The footage was shot by a biker’s helmet cam, who saw what was happening and tried to intervene. He was sprayed with acid for his trouble.

Just two examples of what is currently happening to bikers.

And then we hear endless stories, very often from frustrated serving officers, of the police being stood down from a pursuit when they get close to capturing the guys on scooters who are carrying out these sickening attacks.

So it’s no wonder that many bikers want to take the law into their own hands.

Motorcycle theft has reached epidemic proportions in some UK big cities, especially in London, where thieves are now so brazen they have taken to bike-jacking riders, in broad daylight, in full public view.

Warning. The video above contains disturbing scenes.

Social media sites like Facebook are awash with posts featuring bike thefts. They regularly feature comments calling for the biking community to retaliate. Calls for violence to be used are common.

It’s time for action

We deeply understand the anger behind these sentiments and the huge frustration that comes from thinking nothing is being done.

It is because of our own anger, when we first saw videos of bikes being stolen in broad daylight, with passers-by not stopping to intervene, that we started Biker & Bike in the first place.

And while we advocate intervention in a theft, until the point when violence is threatened, organising vigilante action groups is not the way to go.

Vigilantism has too many negative outcomes for it to be viable for ordinary bikers to combat motorbike theft.

Do you want to get banged-up for hospitalising a chav? Do you want to end up stabbed or even shot? That is the reality. Some bike thieves are serious criminals and they will do anything to protect their livelihood.

It’s not down to the biking community to sort the situation out.

Bike-related crime is now an epidemic. And the only way to deal with an epidemic is through planned, sustained and well-resourced efforts by organisations trained to deal with such situations.

The police MUST now take the issue seriously

There’s a lot of anger directed at the police, perhaps justified, but London’s Metropolitan Police had (and maybe still have) a dedicated Operation Venice initiative specifically targeting thefts of mopeds, scooters and motorbikes.

The problem is, not many people are aware of it.

Many bikers are angry about police policies that force officers to abandon a pursuit of bike thieves, especially the scooter gangs that plague our cities and estates.

But as one commentator on social media recently put it, “A lot of the time they can’t follow due to the danger that it then puts on the public if you give chase it increase risks to other road and street users and in many cases forces the perps to push harder and take bigger risks. In their eyes and I agree your bike isn’t worth someone getting killed or maimed it sucks and it is frustrating but it’s done with reasonable intentions.”

Obviously there is the wider public’s safety at stake, not just our bikes.

So how are these thieves going to be stopped? The Met’s Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey has previously suggested that drones could be used to safely follow moped gangs across the capital. But whether that is even feasible in big cities with tall buildings and radio signal pollution is open to question.

It’s not an easy problem to solve. But it needs solving as scooter-riding gangs are wrecking havoc and the police need to find an answer. Quickly.

Are bait bikes the solution?

It sounds like an obvious solution: fit bikes with trackers and leave them at locations where thieves may operate.

As soon as the bike is moved the police are alerted and they can trace the bike to its current location, in real time.

The police could even use already stolen bikes that haven’t been reclaimed, to keep the operation costs down.

So why aren’t they?

First, if you leave a high-end motorcycle in a bike bay every night even thieves might become suspicious. So you would need to stagger locations and use – and that needs manpower, which is in short supply in most cases.

Second, trackers can be disabled in seconds unless they are properly fitted and have secondary power supplies that are well-hidden from view. This means a pretty time-consuming and expensive set up each time.

Third, you need to cover a lot of locations. Even though our soon-to-launch Stolen Motorbike Register will identify hotspots, the police would need a great deal of bait bikes to make a big difference in larger cities. And in London, with some suggestions of almost 1,000 three to five-man bike gangs in operation, it could prove next to impossible.

In smaller towns, the bait bikes would soon become known. So they would need to be on rotation between forces.

And once you have started to make an impact on crime, bait bikes would need a sustained investment to ensure the problem doesn’t reappear once a specific operation had finished.

In fact, it will take a concerted strategic national campaign to use bait bikes, but in our opinion they are only one part of the solution to discouraging bike thieves.

There need to be more targeted operations

The answer really lies in the way the police responded to the hammer attack at the start of this article.

After that theft, one of many carried out by the attackers, the Met Police assembled a team of detectives from across a number of boroughs, an action that quickly led to the arrest and eventual imprisonment for five years and three years for the two youths involved.

Given that thieves are openly selling the stolen bikes on Facebook, Gumtree and other sites, it cannot be difficult to target these people.

And the truth is the police often know exactly who is causing the crime. A video released last year shows officers from Islington touring streets looking for the guys on scooters. They knew exactly where to look and who to look for.

We can’t, of course, ignore the tragic case of Henry Higgs who died in a police pursuit through that same London borough, involving an unmarked police car.

That case and the prosecution of some of the officers involved has practically put an end to any attempt to follow thieves on scooters and bikes.

But that policy now needs to be reversed. And dedicated teams need to be tasked with bringing the bike gangs down.

The police need our community’s support. The energy that goes into writing social media posts, that criticise the lack of police action, could be better spent writing to police chiefs, Commissioners and local MPs instead. These people need to get their heads together and agree on a new way forward.

It shouldn’t be down to bikers organising themselves on Facebook to go after these people. It should be the professional crime fighters, who should be allowed to do their job, with the proper support from senior officers.

Because, if vigilantes do take to the streets, people are going to get hurt. As much as we love our bikes, it’s not a price worth paying.

It should be Police vs Motorbike Thieves

How do we get ourselves sorted?

Call for more action. Start here by signing this petition.

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B&B Staff

B&B Staff