How to Travel Safely in London

London residents will no doubt be aware that the capital is suffering from a major crime wave at present. Robberies on the street (muggings) are now a major problem in London, typically by youths armed with knives while moped crime is at record levels. The latter is where mopeds are stolen and then used in street robberies. The police have been markedly ineffective in preventing such crimes or catching the criminals.

One recent case was that of comedian Michael McIntyre who was mugged for his £15,000 Rolex watch while doing the school run in north London. Even Home Secretary Sajid Javid had his mobile phone stolen outside Euston station as he called a cab.

Here’s a few tips on how to avoid being mugged:

Don’t wear expensive watches. They don’t tell the time any better than cheap watches.

Avoid flashing expensive jewellery, watches or mobile phones on the streets, particularly at night.

Do not use your mobile phone while walking or standing on the streets of London. Let all calls go to voicemail and respond later in a safe place. This will also avoid you being the victim of a road accident as in London many pedestrians do not see or hear vehicles and step out into the street without looking.

When driving a car, always allow space in front of you to the next vehicle so you can drive around it and escape if attacked, and where there is more than one lane use the outside lane at traffic lights so that you cannot be boxed in. Even if a moped rider stops alongside you, remember that a car can push a moped and its rider out of the way.

How can this crime wave be reduced, other than by people taking more precautions? Clearly the police numbers in London have been falling in recent years – now down to about 30,000. Mayor Sadiq Khan blames this on lack of funding, although per head of population funding of London’s police is higher than in other parts of the UK. But others blame the reduction in “stop and search” activity due to pressure from the black community. The Mayor published a “London Knife Crime Strategy” last year but the impact on such crime has not yet been apparent with fatal stabbings rising this year.

In the case of moped crime, the police do not seem to have been responding with new tactics to tackle it and are allegedly being hampered by rules that prevent them chasing such criminals. Police officers are reluctant to do so simply because if the criminal is injured they may be the subject of an inquiry. Their procedural rules need changing and they need new motorbike patrols using smaller, agile bikes.

One of the problems is that although there is now very extensive video coverage of London’s streets, the criminals’ faces are concealed by crash helmets and the mopeds are typically only recently stolen. Here’s one suggestion that might help. Why not license the helmets used by riders as well as the mopeds or motorbikes. Unlike the latter, helmets are generally not left lying around by their owners and hence would be quickly reported to the police if stolen. Licensing helmets might enable criminals using helmets to be traced, and unlicensed or stolen helmet users could be stopped and questioned or prosecuted. All helmets would have to display their licence number clearly. Is this a workable solution or not?

Postscript: the latter suggestion was criticised by some twitter respondents on the basis that it would not work as the police are unable to stop moped riders. Clearly if that is the case then it probably would not so it would have to be linked to a way of ensuring they could be, and an active “stop and search” programme. Regardless, the key point is that new tactics and new laws need to be considered to stop the crime wave.


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