New police tactics to tackle criminals who use mopeds to commit crimes in London have won the backing of Prime Minister Theresa May.
But the ‘robust’ methods, which involve police ramming suspects off their scooters during pursuits, have been condemned by Labour’s shadow home secretary.
At least two suspects have suffered broken bones after being knocked off their mopeds as police get tough on an epidemic of street robberies in the capital.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct is investigating three cases of what is known as ‘tactical contact,’ but Mrs May expressed support for the tactics.
Speaking at the G20 summit in Argentina at the weekend, she said: “These people on these mopeds are acting unlawfully and committing crimes.
“It’s absolutely right that we see a robust police response to that. Moped crime has been an issue of concern for some time now.”
Footage of officers ramming their cars into scooters and unseating the riders was released by The Metropolitan Police last week.
The force says the tactical contacts are carried out by specially-trained police drivers and has helped to cut moped-enabled crime in the capital by a third.
Senior Metropolitan Police officers have warned moped thieves that their officers will not end a pursuit if a suspect is driving dangerously or removes their helmet.
But shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said the tactics were ‘potentially very dangerous’ and tweeted that police ‘are not above the law.’
Figures show that after a sharp rise in the 12 months to May this year, the number of moped crimes in the Metropolitan Police area are now declining.
There were 22,025 moped crimes recorded between June 2017 and May 2018, up 50 a per cent on the same period in 2016/17.
But between January and October this year, there were 12,419 moped-enabled offences in London, a 36 per cent fall on the same period last year.
The thieves can strike at any time of the day or night and often do so in busy areas in broad daylight, say police.
High profile victims have included the comedian Michael McIntyre and TV financial expert Martin Lewis.
Former chancellor George Osborne narrowly escaped having his phone snatched by a gang and Home Secretary Sajid Javid was robbed before he took up the post.
The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, says legislation is needed to protect its members from prosecution for using the new tactics.
One Metropolitan Police officer could be prosecuted after he used the tactic to knock a teenager off his moped in Erith last year.
The youth was not wearing a helmet and suffered serious head injuries, but was later discharged from hospital.
If the Crown Prosecution Service decides the officer has a case to answer, he could face charges of actual bodily harm or grievous bodily harm.
He could also face an internal Metropolitan Police misconduct procedure, which could result in him being dismissed from the force.