The Guardian view on moped crime: more complex than headlines say | Editorial

Police work is not like the movies, where criminals are caught in the act and brought to justice after a thrilling chase. It requires patient investigatory work – and the money to pay for it

Britain is in the grip of a new kind of crime wave. Or so it would seem if one were to believe the headlines. Hordes of helmeted youngsters are cruising urban streets armed with hammers and bottles of acid ready to smash the windows of expensive shops or rob passing commuters. “Moped-enabled crime” is a phrase that has passed from the police database to the front pages. For obvious reasons celebrity victims, such as the comedian Michael McIntyre and the finance pundit Martin Lewis, have captured the media’s attention. There have also been fatal stabbings; victims have been beaten, others sprayed with acid and some dragged along pavements. It is a growing issue: in London, the Metropolitan police say the number of such offences has risen from just over 1,000 in 2014 to more than 19,000 in the year to last September. As with so many debates about crime, it helps to examine what is driving the numbers.

London represents half of all robberies from the person, so it’s right to concentrate on the capital for acts of theft. In other parts of the UK, police officers have been struggling to combat the use of quad bikes linked to antisocial behaviour, shootings and drug dealing. While the media often highlight well-to-do victims, it seems that the rise of the gig economy has presented thieves on scooters with an easy target: delivery drivers. These low-paid workers ride mopeds worth stealing and also often carry cash. Last summer such was the onslaught that drivers from UberEats and Deliveroo took their protest to parliament. Care must be taken to ensure that crimes are not framed so that they pathologise a group of young people in which every transgression is seen through the lens of feral youth terrorising wealthy Londoners.

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