The police can do more to stop the ‘TMAX Gangs’
London’s motorcycle crime is out of control with criminals on high-powered scooters running amok in the Capital’s streets, stealing bikes left, right and centre, wielding hammers, knives and even worse.
The bad news is, The Met police’s latest announcements do little to convince us that the situation is going to change. But we think there is a clear strategy they could put in place that will deal with the situation quickly.
The current strategies around the scooter-based gangs seem to be ‘be more vigilant’ and ‘protect your bike better.’ To quote the cop in charge of Operation Venice, “If people take more care and use locks to secure their machines there will not be as many stolen scooters around so there will be less crime.”
Is. That. Right…
We reckon if the TMAX gangs thought there was a much higher chance of being caught and getting a significant prison sentence or financial penalty, that would see less motorcycle related crime.
But right now, with the so-called ‘no pursuit’ policies in place – where removal of a helmet or mounting of a pavement results in the immediate standing down of a pursuing police vehicle – certain areas of London like the West End, Southwark, Dagenham and Harold Hill are like the Wild West. Except the cowboys are not allowed to chase the Indians.
And let’s face it, even when caught, the sentences handed out to the TMAX scrotes are pitiful.
This is not just about trying to get the so-called ‘no pursuit’ policies changed. They will be, eventually, but there are complex legislation changes that need to be made, and these take time.
We’ll be covering those complexities and the efforts by rank-and-file officers to get them changed in due course, but be assured, the plod in the patrol car and astride the RT wants change as much as we do.
So, if pursuits can’t be used…
The Met say, instead of chasing the gangs, knowing who they are they will simply visit them at 3am. Begging the question why haven’t they been doing that already?
There is a way around ‘no pursuit’ and that is to have dedicated motorcycle-equipped teams targeting known gangs in their operating areas.
Instead of chasing the gangs, the police need to adopt one of their techniques from crowd control, ‘kettleing.’
The Met say they know where the gangs operate and indeed exactly where the gangs are travelling in from.
By surrounding the gangs either en-route or in the operational area and detaining them the police can then forensically go over them, the bikes they are riding, the weapons they carry and the tools like angle grinders and hammers they use for their attacks. Those gang members that escape each kettle operation can be bothered next time so let them go, because they can’t be chased anyway.
We estimate that to put a severe dent in the operations of the gangs it would take four-five teams of six motorcycle mounted officers each. The teams would need a rota working around the clock as thieves’ operating hours are pretty much 24 hours now.
There would need to be an intensive period of 3-6 months of operations to gather the intelligence and operational insights needed to take the majority of gangs off the streets/persuade them there are easier ways to make a living.
Once the heat has been taken out of London, it would be time to move at least some of the units on to other cities. If the officers themselves don’t move on, their methods, strategies and indeed vehicles can be exported to other forces.
At the very least, this would let the gangs know that their operations will be severely hampered and it’s time to move on from motorcycle crime. Maybe it’s time to get an actual job and join society, you never know.
Resources, resources, resources
Police officers reading this, of whom there a great many, will be shouting at their computer or smartphone, “There aren’t enough resources! The cutbacks are killing us.”
They are absolutely right. You can’t just mount an operation willy-nilly with 20,000 fewer officers to call on.
To give you an idea of the challenges facing The Met and indeed pretty much every other force, one former traffic officer connected to Biker & Bike told us that at one point in his former force, Thames Valley, the number of qualified motorcycle officers pre ‘austerity’ used to be 42, each with a personal bike.
Now there are only 10 qualified officers. Using just 6 bikes. Covering 2,200 square miles.
We understand that at certain times between midnight and 6am, The Met has only six cars that could be authorised to conduct pursuits, covering a city with a population of 8.5 million people. You can see the scale of the problem.
But we happen to know there are a number of motorcycling officers, not necessarily sat in the Traffic Division, who would be prepared to be trained to a higher standard and then can use their local and investigation knowledge to form high functioning squads.
And as for the bikes, if paramedics can be supplied with sponsored vehicles by dealers and brands, surely bike manufacturers, knowing the damage this situation is causing to at least the reputation of the industry, can make some bikes available at least for a trial period, to prove the tactics work and justify a proper investment?
Operation Venice is not enough
What is clear from The Met’s recent Operation Venice announcements is that they are working under severe resource restrictions.
As reported in the Evening Standard, a number of measures are being introduced in response to the escalation in motorcycle related crime, a term that also covers muggings of mobile phones from pedestrians, as well as the theft of motorbikes.
Superintendent Mark Payne, who is co-ordinating the Met’s prevention campaign, announced among other efforts that The Met will be introducing:
• A specialist tactical traffic advisor who can authorise high-speed pursuits on duty 24/7 in the Met’s central London control room (who exactly will they be authorising, if the number of qualified officers is so low?).
• Special ‘recognisers’ being used to spot known offenders – one suspect in a recent spree of incidents outside the BBC was recognised by a mole on his forehead.
Put in the context of the dedicated counter-terrorism team that was swiftly assembled last year, it seems The Met still isn’t taking the situation seriously.
They can find the resources when the will is there, clearly
The will needs to be there because the situation is already out of control. There is, in our opinion, an increasing risk of more deaths – recently footage was released featuring a machete being carried by a gang rider and of course there is the tragic case of Ricky Hayden who lost his life defending his bike from bike thieves.
If The Met fail to act now and put the lid on this type of criminal operation, the cancer that is these gang’s modus operandi will spread throughout the country.
Because, to the young lads who are tempted to don a balaclava, nick a scooter and arm themselves with a hammer or angle grinder, this type of crime is like crack.
And because if the police don’t act, it increasingly looks like bikers will do the job themselves.