CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Police defend tactic of ramming moped muggers off road

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott warns officers that they are not 'above the law'

29 November, 2018

POLICE have defended controversial ­tactics of ramming suspected muggers off their mopeds as a political row erupted over the strategy.

Camden’s Inspector Richard Berns said yesterday (Wednesday) “knocking these brazen offenders off stolen mopeds” had helped cut moped crime in Camden by 90 per cent since last year.
But Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott warned on Tuesday that “knocking ­people off bikes is potentially very dangerous – it shouldn’t be legal for anyone”.

She was commenting after the Met released a film showing moped riders being floored after fast-paced chases that went “viral” on social media.

Ms Abbott said: “Police are not above the law.”

Unusually for a public service, Camden Police directly questioned Ms Abbott by tweeting her through their social media arm.

The local force said: “Someone who’s responsible for law-making (or at least debating and ratifying new legislation) should probably realise that using tactical contact to terminate dangerous pursuits is entirely within our lawful power… And our responsibility.”

The police tweet was “liked” by 7,000 of users apparently backing the stance, while some criticised Ms Abbott.
When one Twitter user suggested it was “the second time in a week I’ve noticed an unsettlingly arrogant, combative tone from the MPS Camden”, the police responded: “If it’s arrogant and combative to defend our integrity and organisational reputation, then we’re guilty as charged.”

Ms Abbott could not be reached yesterday (Wednesday) and made no further comment to expand on her thoughts.

The Met has said this week there is now no maximum speed for police cars to hit mopeds and officers can pursue suspects even if they remove helmets.

The New Journal contacted Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq to see if she agreed with her frontbench colleague. Her spokesman said she did not have a strong position on the tactic of knocking over the suspected muggers.

In the House of Commons, she said: “Whether people agree with the strategy deployed by the police or not, the strength of feeling is shown by the fact that the video was retweeted thousands of times and went on the front pages of papers – because so many people have been victims of crimes, or know someone who has been a victim.”

She said residents were “scared to walk down the street” and said the existing legislation “is not sufficient anymore”, adding: “Viral videos will not deter criminals but tougher approaches will just do that.”

Her proposed new clause – which suggested a two-year custodial sentence for anyone found with a knife or acid while driving or a passenger on a moped – was not accepted.

Diane Abbott at a Camden Labour event

Camden Conservative leader Oliver Cooper said “residents don’t see why the rights of criminals should come before the rights of victims”, adding: “It’s absolutely right that the police have adopted tactical contact where it’s reasonable and proportionate, because it is effective. The police have always had this power and they have a responsibility to take every step possible to keep our streets safe.”

He added: “Camden Conservatives organised a public meeting about moped crime in Belsize Park last September, and the one thing that kept coming up was why police aren’t pursuing criminals and knocking them over when nothing else works. Since then, moped crime in Camden has been cut by 90 per cent, thanks to these measures.”

In a statement, Inspector Berns added: “Moped-related theft snatch is an extremely harmful crime and many suspects are armed with knives and willing to use them. We have used a range of methods over the last 12 months in an effort to catch the suspects and reduce the amount people falling victim. From crime prevention messages and education, to using more robust methods like DNA spray, hollow spikes and ‘tactical contact’.”

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