Besides mobile phones, designer watches and bags, moped thieves even stole BBC cameras set up for the Oxford-Cambridge boat race and took camera equipment from an Australian television network whilst they were filming in the street.
Moped thieves cruise the streets looking for targets. So what can we all do to avoid becoming a victim?
Don’t advertise your phone
A big draw for the moped gangs are our mobile phones. The average stolen smartphone is worth £300 on the Black Market. Once it’s blocked on the networks in the UK, it can’t be used in Europe - but beyond the EU, (in places such as Africa, Russia and the Middle East), your phone can and will be sold and used as normal.
Simply not having this on display in the street, cuts down your risk considerably.
Stop texting or map-reading on the street. Go into a shop or café, or at the very least, find a recessed doorway. Think about safe spaces, and remember that moped thieves will often drive onto pavements to grab what they want.
Pay attention to your surroundings when you’re on foot. Stay vigilant at junctions, street crossings and in wide open pedestrian spaces. If you’re going to talk on the phone whilst in the street, remember that you will be distracted. Who is in front of you and who is behind you? Where is your nearest safe space? Can that call wait?
If you must take calls on the street, keep your mobile out of sight and tucked inside an inner pocket of your clothing. Small Bluetooth headphones make it less obvious if you really do have to take that urgent call. If you’re using your phone for route guidance and maps, use the spoken guidance through the headset.
Designer bags will attract attention. If you want to carry one, be aware of areas where you might be most vulnerable. Try not to carry it facing the road side of the street and stay as far away from the kerb as possible.
Spread your belongings out
Keep your phone, keys, money and travel pass in different pockets and/or bags. You’re less likely to lose everything at once that way. Never have your home address written on anything that is in the same place you keep your door keys.
Switch it up
Our routines make us vulnerable. If you leave the house and walk to work at the same time every day, carrying the same designer handbag and wearing a fancy Rolex watch, you might get spotted as a regular and become a target. Vary your route. Change what you do and when you do it.
Tone it down
Do you really need to flash the cash on the way to work or the school run? Can you save the fancy trinkets and designer bag for a special occasion? Even keeping them out of sight until you put them on at your safe destination makes you less vulnerable to opportunistic thieves.
Remain in your car
The comedian, Michael McIntyre, exited the passenger side of his vehicle when his driver’s side window was smashed by thieves with a hammer. He may have believed that he was being attacked by car thieves and was preparing to hand over his vehicle. However, if you are stopped in your vehicle and you believe that your safety is at risk, stay in your vehicle. Drive off or simply move backwards and forwards so you’re not stationary. Make it difficult for people to get into the car. Attract attention. Drive to a safe place where you can seek help.
Don’t drive with your sunroof or windows open. Keep your doors locked. Consider installing special, inexpensive film designed to protect your windows in the event of a blunt force attack.
When waiting in traffic, leave space between the vehicles in front of you in case you have to pull out in a hurry. If you are under attack, and cannot pull out into stationary traffic, drive forwards and backwards quickly. You might hit those vehicles parked around you, but it will disrupt the thieves.
Let them have it
If you are unfortunate enough to have a moped thief grab your bag, phone or watch – let it go. Do not struggle. Victims of moped-enabled crime have been dragged along the floor and seriously injured when they refused to let their possessions get away. A watch or handbag is not worth your health and safety. Insure them on your home insurance, and let them go.
On the other hand, one or two thieves are no match for a large group of people. Robberies have been foiled by members of the public standing up to these thieves en masse. If you outnumber the thieves and you see a crime being attempted – aim to stop, disable or confiscate their mopeds. Those mopeds are everything for the gangs, without them they are vulnerable. You are within your rights to detain the perpetrators and/or conduct a citizen’s arrest. In the event of an attack, or perceived attack, you can use reasonable force to protect yourself and your property.
Information is everything
See something taking place? Call 999 immediately if you are in the UK. If you are safe to do so, zoom in and take as much footage and images as possible. Moped registration plates are often fake, stolen or non-existent, but details and distinguishing marks on vehicles such as modifications or scratches are useful. If there is anything unusual in what they are carrying or wearing, get photos and video of that.too.
If you can get images of perpetrators’ faces, eyes – or even sound recordings of voices, these may all help the police catch the criminals. Dashcam footage has also recently been used to convict moped thieves – please share it with police.
If you have information, images or footage of what you believe to be a moped-related or moped-enabled crime in the UK, please contact your local police force via 101 and seek instructions on how to share it with them.
David Videcette is a former Scotland Yard detective with a career in organised crime and counter-terror. He now advises high-net-worth individuals on safety and security. A crime fighter turned crime writer, you can check out his books on Amazon.
Read about David Videcette's recent moped mugging experience involving Daniel Radcliffe, here.