Operation Venice: Reporter shadows police to find out what is being done about moped crime in Havering
- Credit: Hayley Anderson
Moped gangs have been terrorising residents for months, causing people to be scared to walk down the street. Hayley Anderson was invited to shadow officers, and find out what action was being taken.
Seeing the whites of a moped driver’s eyes, boxed in by the police car I was sitting in, was not a sight I was expecting that morning.
But that is run of the mill for the brave officers tasked with stopping moped crime for the East Area Command Unit, as part of the city wide initiative Operation Venice.
With lots of high profile crimes in Havering over the past few weeks, the Recorder had been invited to join the first proactive operation in Op Venice in the borough. The day started off at Romford Police Station, where officers were briefed by Insp John Goodwin.
He said: “While offences involving mopeds is relatively low within the boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge, here in the East Area we are working very hard to keep the public safe and make the streets hostile territory for criminals who steal scooters, motorbikes and mopeds to commit crime.”
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Hotspot locations were drawn up, known individuals were noted and various tactics were discussed before I got to meet Sgt Neal Donohoe and acting Sgt Will Topp who I was going to be spending my day with.
We began driving in an unmarked Tactical Pursuit and Containment (TPAC) car which can reach 150mph during a chase.
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It was not before long that we were called to Queen’s Hospital, in Rom Valley Way, after a man had been seen leaving a suspicious looking moped behind.
Sgt Donohoe said: “Sometimes it’s the demeanour, the clothing, the kind of bike they are on and we know because we are looking out for them all the time.”
Next thing I know, the blue lights were switched on and the car was pushed to its limits as we chased a white car in the town centre before coming to a halt in South Street. Sgt Topp informed me that a plain clothes officer followed the moped driver around the hospital, before he got into the passenger seat of the car.
The vehicle was being driven without a licence, and the driver will appear in court.
Sgt Donohoe said: “I can’t prove it but I know it was the same one that failed to stop for me the other week, so it does give me some self satisfaction.”
There was little time to celebrate though, as we were called to another sighting of a moped driver believed to be involved in supplying drugs.
We drove along the outskirts of Romford and saw officers on motorbikes chasing him, so we skidded in front to box him in.
The driver then quickly turned his bike and managed to escape through a small gap – but the chase was not over.
Two police cars and motorbikes were all on his tail, with the marked car continuing to follow him as he drove up a hill.
The moped began speeding down, and Sgt Donohoe sprinted out of the car to tackle the driver.
The senior officer chased him along the busy road but couldn’t keep up, so Sgt Topp slammed the passenger door and continued with the pursuit. After a five minute chase through tight residential roads, the motorbikes went ahead without us as we went back to pick up Sgt Donohoe.
Jokingly he said: “Nearly got him - I’ll get him next time!”
The rest of the day was spent chasing mopeds but several were “terminated” by those operating the control room at Scotland Yard.
Following several high profile deaths during police pursuits, officers now do not chase drivers without helmets without authorisation. One driver, on a stolen moped in Romford, took his helmet off causing the chase to be ended, much to the frustration of the officers.
Sgt Donohoe said: “Until there are some changes in policy from the government to allow police to pursue these people, it’s very difficult for us.”
After a long day, “significant” intelligence had been gathered on those committing offences and six vehicles were seized, with the riders charged for a variety of driving offences and one wanted man arrested for other crimes.
Sgt Donohoe said: “We work very hard and are doing our best to catch these people.”