On Saturday, July 15, while he was leaving a Jazz club located in Greenwich accompanied by his fiancé, a man was assaulted by two men on a scooter who demanded that he give them his Rolex. While he refused to obey, one of the two stabbed him several times in the neck with a kitchen knife before they disappeared on their vehicle. The victim succumbed to his injuries a little later in the evening.
This tragic aggression illustrates the surge of crime committed on two-wheeled vehicles in London. For a long time, scooters have been used in snatch-and-grab robberies for smartphones or bags. But these thefts are accompanied by increased violence. The attackers do not hesitate to threaten their victims with knives, hammers, even machetes or to throw acid in the face of their victims.
Mid-July, two teenagers committed as many as five acid attacks in one evening in an attempt to steal two-wheelers in northern London. Delivery service providers, such as Deliveroo, demonstrated in front of Parliament to denounce the violence directed at them.
More than 16,000 scooter attacks had been reported in London for the past year – an average of 43 per day
Hooded and helmeted, the aggressors can seldom be reported accurately. Their vehicles are more than often stolen. Moreover, the police are reluctant to carry out high-speed chases ever since Dec 2014 when a young man on a moped was pursued by a patrol and subsequently died after crashing; in fact, following this event and the inquest, the police pursuit policy has been reviewed. The offenders know that all it takes for thepolice to stop the high-speed chase is for one of them to remove their helmet. Still, this then gives the police an advantage as the face can be seen by them, the victims, bystanders and also on CCTV.
By the end of June, more than 16,000 scooter attacks had been reported in London for the past year – an average of 43 per day – three times more than the previous year and fifteen times more than in 2014. Over the period, two-wheeler thefts jumped up by 30%. These statistics contributed to a 10% increase in crime in England compared to last year.
Thieves train each other to grab pedestrian telephones before launching into the streets. A large proportion of these thefts take place around stations where people often use their mobile phones. The most skilled thieves are able to snatch up to 20 phones in an hour.
The police drew up a list of 200 suspects. Scotland Yard recently succeeded in arresting three members of one of these moped gangs in North London, aged of 15, 16 and 17 years old. They alone had committed 103 assaults in 18 days. Their misdeeds occurred in the busy and tourist districts of Westminster, around Oxford Circus or Camden Market, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea.
Comment: There is a fear that the violence is escalating, with a wave of acid attacks in the past few weeks.
There is another concern that it could spread beyond London, which for reasons that are not entirely clear, concentrates the largest number of this type of criminality. Police forces are implanting new tools to fight this surge of delinquency but for the moment, there is no end in sight to this epidemic of violence.
Analysis: Citizens can mitigate the risk of being assaulted by practicing Situational Awareness, meaning being familiar with one’s environment and the dangers that are present there.
Situational awareness is useful for distinguishing criminal behaviour and identifying other emerging dangerous situations.