GANGS are disguising themselves as commuters and switching mopeds for silent e-bikes in order to sneak up on their victims.
The Metropolitan Police have warned that mugging gangs are picking e-bikes for their getaway vehicle as it allows them to blend into the crowd.
Mopeds are being ditched because e-bikes are easier to evade detection by authorities as they don’t have to have number plates and are much more anonymous.
Cops have recently launched a crackdown on thugs who use mopeds to snatch phones and watches from their victims on pavements.
Officers have started to see a “displacement” of motorcycles and mopeds, and are using stolen e-bikes instead.
The vehicles, which can cost up to £3k, have their top speeds derestricted by the gangs, meaning their new top speed is 40mph on and off pavements.
Operation Venice was set up to tackle drive-by thefts, with officers saying they have seen criminals ditching trainers for brogues in an attempt to look like normal commuters.
The Met Police have launched their 'Look Up and Look Out' campaign to remind people returning to the daily commute that the gangs are still operating, albeit using new tactics.
Police Sergeant Clem Jones, who is in charge of the operation, told The Telegraph: “When we started tackling this problem, there were a lot of criminals that thought the crime had no risk, just a lot of reward – then we came on the scene.
“They make themselves look like early morning commuters. They know what they need to wear.
"They try to make out like they are normal people, sometimes with high-vis jackets on to look like builders.
“We are aware of it and we are developing tactics to keep up with them. We have to evolve.”
We have seen a change in tactics which we have to evolve and adapt to
Operation Venice was set up to target moped gangs after a spate of thefts across the capital in 2017, including an attack on ex-Chancellor George Osbourne.
Criminals drove round in a group of two or three bikes at the peak of the incidents, snatching up to 40 phones a day with each theft taking as little as six seconds.
Sgt Jones explained that gang members sometimes remove their helmets while driving to try to stop officers from chasing them because of health and safety concerns.
The gangs also tried throwing their helmets at cop cars to try and smash the windscreen, as well as trying to escape down no entry roads.
The Met’s successful operation led to a drop in year-on-year moped thefts, which has meant the gangs are changing their tactics to target people returning to the streets of London after lockdown.
More than 50 areas of the UK — including London, Newcastle, Bristol and Bournemouth — operate rental schemes where people can hop on and off scooters from £1 a time with a provisional or full driving licence.
Only Government-approved scooters are legal to ride on roads, while privately owned ones can only be used on private land.
Ministers are not due to decide whether to fully legalise their use until at least the end of the year.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
PRIVATELY owned e-scooters can only be used on private land with permission from the landowner.
It is a traffic offence to use them on a public road, or another public place, with fines of up to £300 and up to six points on your licence. Your e-scooter could also be seized.
Legally hired e-scooters must be leased from companies with relevant motor insurance.
You need to be over 16, hold a full provisional driving licence, drive them on public roads and cycle lanes but not on pavements, above, or motorways.
Only one person can use them at a time. Drunk e-scooter riders can be prosecuted under drink-driving laws.
In London e-scooters were involved in 574 recorded crimes between July 1, 2020 and April 30, 2021.
Norfolk listed 120 reports, Merseyside more than 100, Cleveland 81, Derbyshire 27 and Staffordshire 23.
Detective Chief Superintendent Lee Hill added: “Tackling violence in all its forms is our absolute priority.
"We want to send a clear message to anyone who thinks it’s OK to steal from our communities that it will not be tolerated.
“Officers will be out on motorcycles and using specialist tactics to target offenders.
“It is brilliant to see visitors back in the West End again after what has been an extremely difficult time.
"We want everyone to have fun and enjoy themselves.
"Many people have waited a long time to enjoy the area’s shops, bars, restaurants and cinemas but we want them to do so safely.
“Many of us walk around looking down at our phones and often people have other valuable items, such as headphones, on the go too.
"We are urging people to be more vigilant and aware of their surroundings. Please look up and look out.”
There have been a string of drug-related incidents related to the vehicles, with Jamie Little, 21, from Maidstone, Kent, was jailed for 30 months for using one to deliver cocaine and heroin in February.
Joy Singarajah, 21, from East London, who used an e-scooter to deliver cocaine around Essex University to raise money to pay his student fees, was jailed for 15 months last July.
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