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Bikers applying pressure on MPs is starting to work

Protest ride outs and media coverage of the bike crime epidemic are great for creating awareness of the situation bikers find themselves in. However, only persuading policy and law makers to act can actually affect any real change. The good news is, it looks like they are listening.

We’ve known for some time that the only real solution to the problem of the so-called ‘TMAX’ and moped gangs was to allow more police drivers to chase them under less stringent conditions than the ones that exist.

To get pursuit guidelines changed is the responsibility of the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the College of Policing. They are currently looking at it. Once they have agreed on a new approach, it needs to be agreed by the Home Office. That is step one.

Step two involves changing the Road Traffic Act so that appropriately qualified police drivers are exempt from prosecution for dangerous driving. After all, if a criminal drives dangerously, how is an officer expected to keep up if they can’t drive beyond the standard of ‘Competent and Careful’ expected of them within the Act?

There is arguably another step: Recruit and train more officers with the driving skills required. That needs Government to reverse the police cutbacks under Austerity and provide direct funding for more manpower.

In all three cases, Members of Parliament will have a direct say in making these things happen.

They’re listening

If you follow the subject closely you already know all of the above. You’ll also have read plenty of comments from MPs in the press, expressing disgust at acid attacks and stabbings involved in motorcycle related crime.

What is less well known is that many MPs are taking a deeper interest.

Louise Haigh, the MP for Sheffield Heeley and a member of the Shadow Cabinet took the time to spend a day with London’s specialist motorcycle related crime unit Operation Venice. She wrote about it for the Huffington Post, revealing some very interesting insights.

MP Stephen Timms led a debate on the acid attacks after two of his Beckton constituents were attacked and five people in North and East London were attacked in one night. The Home Office is now looking at ways to more tightly control sales of highly corrosive substances.

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Perhaps the most encouraging sign that MPs want and will do something about the situation is a private response a Biker & Bike reader received from his local MP, Ruth Cadbury, Member of Parliament for Brentford and Isleworth.

John Dalton, who shared the response with us and agreed to have it published here, contacted Ruth Cadbury using a ‘Letter to your MP‘ template provided by the We Ride London website. All he had to do was fill in a few details and use this link to find his MP’s contact details. Less than 5 minutes work to try and get something done. Hint.

In return, he received this:

Dear John

Thank you for contacting me recently about criminals operating on motorcycles, scooters and mopeds. Theft of motorbikes and mopeds has been a growing issue locally, although we’ve not yet seen quite the same moped offending levels or vicious types of moped-related crime seen recently on other parts of London.

I appreciate that concerns have been raised about the police’s ability to pursue people who are suspected of committing criminal activity while riding these vehicles, and I agree that changes are needed.

Moped crime nationally has increased by more than 10 times since 2012, often affecting some of our poorest communities, and it is important people have confidence that the police can enforce the law. Unfortunately, I fear that the current situation is hampering the ability of the police to apprehend very serious offenders and take them off our streets.

Officers must be able to feel confident to take appropriate action when pursuing suspects on mopeds and the law and guidelines must support them in doing this. I believe the law should, therefore, be reviewed and changed where necessary, and I know that this is something the Police Federation of England and Wales has been calling for over a number of years now.

It is important that our police officers have been sufficiently trained, with the skills and experience to make the right decisions. I believe it is right that they should, therefore, be assessed based on their training and circumstances, and not how a regular driver might be.

More widely, I am worried that serious crimes such as these are rising in part due to the impact of Government policies, particularly stretched police resources and significant reductions in neighbourhood policing. I hope the Government will listen carefully to the concerns that have been raised on this issue and consider how best to move forward in tackling these reckless and dangerous crimes.

I have recently spoken to Chief Inspector of Neighbourhoods for Hounslow, Wayne Matthews. He told me that Hounslow does not experience the same moped offending levels or crime types which other Boroughs do but the local police are conscious that they need to have robust plans to ensure that that does not change. Currently, the guidance is that pursuits of mopeds are permitted but there are very strict guidelines which must be adhered to. Moped riders particularly exposed. Should they come off, there is a high likelihood that they will suffer severe if not fatal injuries.

He explained that criminals have seen from TV programmes depicting police pursuits that if they ride onto a pavement, remove their crash helmets or go through red traffic lights, the normal procedure is for any pursuit to be terminated. To counter this they do make use of helicopters, as this reduces the risk if the rider is unaware of the aircraft’s presence. However, it is not always possible to secure the helicopter or get it to the area before the rider is lost.

Matthews assured me that they are constantly reviewing tactics in respect of moped enabled crime and new technologies are being tested all of the time. Traffic units are trained to deal with enforced moped stops, but they are a pan London asset and are often some distance away or committed with other matters. Whilst stop sticks or ‘Stinger’s are available for use they are also strictly controlled.

The Chief Inspector has asked that all his officers who encounter a moped will stop it and account for ownership. Whenever possible, offenders will be processed for offences and illegal or un-roadworthy mopeds will be seized and destroyed. The intention with this tactic is to develop a comprehensive database of moped owners, vehicles and descriptions of things such as helmets and clothing, which can then be used to identify offenders. If riders are repeatedly processed for offences, they shall be disqualified from riding. If they continue to ride, there is a higher likelihood of them being given a custodial sentence for riding whilst disqualified, as opposed to any other offences they are committing.

The Crime Squad are also working with the Dedicated Ward Officers in identifying those individuals who are involved in moped enabled crime and there is work to target these offenders proactively, at their home address, rather than trying to deal with them reactively, after they have committed offences on the street.

Publicity and educating the public to secure their mopeds with heavy duty chains or other suitable Anti-theft devices are being promoted. This is one area where the public can have a significant impact on this type of crime. Operation Venice is the corporate initiative regarding this. Some councils have installed anchoring devices which will also help the public in securing their mopeds and Chief Inspector Matthews is exploring the possibility of LBH providing this.

I hope this reassures you of the seriousness with which this type of crime is being treated but also provides some details around the complexities involved.

Thank you once again for contacting me and for sharing your views on this issue, I will continue to follow this matter closely.

Yours sincerely, Ruth Cadbury MP Member of Parliament for Brentford and Isleworth

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Encouraging

We asked John if we could share this on Biker & Bike because, while no concrete steps have been promised, the response does show that MPs are willing to listen and understand the situation. That Ruth Cadbury now understands police policy on pursuits and agrees that something needs to be done is particularly encouraging. More MPs should also be aware.

This is really important, as at some point in the near future they will be asked to vote on the police exemption from dangerous driving. They may also use decide to put pressure on their party’s policy makers to press for more police funding.

What it needs now is for MPs to be involved and that involves you contacting them and asking them to get involved.

If you don’t like protest demos, don’t believe in petitions* and you aren’t a vigilante (we hope you aren’t because that doesn’t really work as a tactic), then getting your MP involved is absolutely the best way of getting the bike crime situation changed.

Get the situation sorted:

*Time after time we see petitions, calling for tens of thousands of bikers to stand up and be counted, only receive the support of a few thousand, sometimes only a few hundred people.

The reality is, only direct pressure on MPs will get the situation changed. The NPCC is still at arm’s length, but MPs have to respond to letters and emails. Better still, they can be met face-to-face in local constituency surgeries.

Please put the pressure on them. It really will work.

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