Documentary looking at moped thieves. Livvy Haydock meets the UK's newest type of criminal, who have contributed to an alarming rise in violent crime, after decades of decline.
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-Did you see the
The menace of moped gangs is something
we've reported on many times over the past year.
It's mainly mobile-phone snatches.
The Met has been stopped from pursuing criminals on scooters
because of the risk to the rider or the public.
Two of them go into the store, one of them has a sledgehammer.
The defenceless owner is hit and kicked.
A woman is dragged along by her hair.
A motorcyclist is surrounded by four mopeds,
a fire extinguisher let off in his face.
I'm Livvy Haydock and, like most people, I've watched
in shock as this new violent crimewave has hit British cities.
The internet is full of videos showing crimes.
Some are uploaded by the thieves themselves,
bragging on anonymous Instagram accounts.
Who are these criminals?
And why do they do it?
What is the value of what you've robbed here?
..you know what I'm saying?
And do you always bring your phones here?
So you take these to Nigeria?
..you know what I'm saying? So...
Oh, they're all counterfeit phones?
When are you next going to Nigeria?
So you're in demand in Nigeria right now.
Is that why these robberies are going through the roof?
Most thieves are teenage boys,
operating in streets near where they live,
and their favourite time to strike is evening rush hour.
I'd arranged to meet Mr X to find out what his story is.
When did you start getting involved with what you're doing now?
I know loads of people who are working their arses off
in legitimate jobs, and they're still struggling
to feed their family, pay rent and everything, but they don't go
out and do that, so how would you justify what you do?
Don't you think that's quite a scummy thing to do?
COMMENTATOR: As the lights go out and the race begins...
Mr X told me that he has a sideline
as a professional online racer.
At some of the biggest tournaments,
the winner can take home over 100 grand.
But Mr X hasn't won any prize money yet.
Mr X took me to one of his favourite hunting grounds
for stealing phones -
Upper Street in north London.
It was only a mile away in 2016 that Cavell Hutson, a north-London thief,
stole 21 mobile phones in one hour.
Now Mr X is going to show me how he chooses his targets.
What makes pedestrian crossings a good spot?
And would you go straight through the lights?
Do you think people are stupid,
walking around with their phones out like that?
But it's so normal.
You just take it out of his hand?
In this area, as we've been driving around, I've seen a lot of police.
-..you know what I'm saying?
Have you ever?
We're in London. There are a lot of cameras.
Won't they catch you?
Larbi is a moped driver who has witnessed
so much crime on the streets he started filming it to post online.
So, Larbi, can you talk me through this footage?
-I was at the traffic lights.
-We saw two groups on scooters.
Wow, and they're going on the pavement.
They're going on the pavement.
-And they've actually gone past that red light.
-Oh, my goodness.
What made you pursue them?
They were all balaclavaed up
and remember, it was really warm.
-So when you see that, it's obviously a tell-tale sign
that something is definitely going down.
-There was a guy who was standing there on his phone...
That was the victim.
I thought, "Come outside, get a bit of fresh air."
I had to do a bit of bank transfers on my phone,
so I started doing that when, all of a sudden,
my phone just actually went straight out of my hand.
And it took me about a second to register.
And then I started giving chase.
Get that licence plate!
-What did they do?
-Got my phone!
Larbi chased the thieves to try and get a look at their numberplate.
-And then there was a car here that kind of blocked it.
So, when they figured out that I still followed them,
one went straight ahead...
-And one decided to take a right.
-Oh, so you're... They split.
-Yeah, so they split.
No-one bats an eyelid.
The thieves got away but, when Larbi reviewed his footage,
he realised he'd got the shot he wanted,
and there was something unusual about the numberplate.
What was the numberplate?
ON MY JOB.
What does that say to you?
-Taking the piss.
-It does appear that way.
What would it take for me to protect myself and to be able
to walk around Islington and use my phone and feel safe?
Aren't you just going to want to snatch my bag?
It's rare to find an active phone thief
willing to talk so openly about his crimes.
So how does Mr X feel about his victims?
If I was walking down the street and someone stole my phone,
that would shake me up - I'd be scared from that.
Like, do you ever feel for the people you steal from?
..you know what I'm saying?
And would you say it's quite addictive?
So GTA, so Grand Theft Auto?
-It gives you a buzz?
-MR X CHUCKLES
Guys, this is an emergency.
There's been an acid attack in Bethnal Green.
Anyone there, please?
These messages were recorded by working motorcycle delivery drivers.
They're distributed through a secret WhatsApp group
that alerts other bikers to danger.
The group is run by delivery driver Jabed Hussain,
victim of a horrific acid attack by two bike thieves
on this east-London street.
Where's it hurting, mate? Your eyes?
The acid was thrown by this teenager, 17-year-old Derryck John.
So the sole reason that these guys throw acid in your face
was because they wanted to steal your bike?
Yeah. Most probably. I don't know, I'm not sure, because they've
got a lot of different options if they want to take my bike.
Why do they have to destroy my face?
Jabed's face was saved by a quick-thinking policeman,
who poured water over him.
But the mental scars are longer lasting.
-Does it bring it back a lot, being here?
I feel, like, scared to come back here. Going past this way.
Now Jabed is trying to start a union for other delivery drivers
to provide financial support
for members whose bikes have been stolen.
Jabed wanted me to come to one of their first meetings.
So, can I ask a couple of questions? Is that OK? OK.
So who here is a delivery driver? If you put your hand up.
So, everybody's a delivery driver.
Who here has experienced somebody trying to steal your bike?
And who here has experienced violence
when someone's trying to steal your bike?
It says a lot.
So, you guys feel that the government haven't got your back.
Who has got your back?
I caught up with Mr X
a few days later in central London.
He wanted to introduce me to a fellow thief named Ghost.
So, what about delivery bikes like this?
Would you chance robbing those?
-..and they'll come.
-What, you get them to bring the bike to you?
And what do you do when the bike arrives?
-Just like that - kick them off the bike?
-And you know the bike's working.
-I just drive it off.
-And the food.
-And the food.
-So you'd even rob the pizza.
But you're going to have some kind of conflict there with the driver.
We move into my car.
I want to challenge Mr X and Ghost
about stealing bikes from delivery drivers.
So it don't bother you at all
that you're taking someone else's property?
So you don't feel any, like, remorse or nothing
for the people you're robbing?
You talked about nicking bikes to sell.
How do you hide the fact it's stolen
from someone that's going to buy it from you?
Yeah. How do you get round that?
So that's why you've got to change it?
But then how do I become Jessica?
Yeah, but where do you get a new name tag from?
Do you ever feel bad for what you do?
Now that the streets are a bit quieter, we go out again.
I want to ask about bike security, because, looking at the videos
online, it seems like bikes aren't safe anywhere.
Last summer, one moped gang even broke into a showroom
and stole a superbike worth 28 grand.
What do you see when you see these bikes?
Like, how easy would it be to steal this bike?
And how would you get it away?
So you take it in a van?
Vans are used to remove the bikes as quickly as possible.
The thieves will store them out of sight and if, after a few days,
no-one comes looking for them, the bikes belong to the thieves.
And are there any bikes here that you wouldn't try and steal?
What about the chain...? Looks like it's...
Many gangs strike repeatedly until they're caught.
This gang broke into 17 mobile-phone stores across north and east London.
Moped driver Larbi also managed to film a gang
when they were on their way to a smash and grab.
So, Larbi, tell me what actually happened here.
So I was coming down Park Lane.
Three bikes passed me.
The last person in the group had a big sledgehammer at the back,
wrapped around his back, so...
What did you think when you saw that?
So, when I saw that, something is definitely going to happen.
There's going to be a smash and grab and, obviously,
if they're going to be heading down this way,
they're going to be heading towards Knightsbridge.
So that's when alarm bells rang.
I put my GoPro camera on and then I followed them all the way
down there and I saw a community support police officer there.
-So, like, as you can...
-Oh, wow, yeah, you're signalling.
Yeah, I'm signalling him. And these are...
-These are the criminals here.
And they're actually going past the red light.
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, there they go.
Larbi was right to be suspicious -
the thieves went to do a smash and grab
at Boodles jewellery store in Knightsbridge.
And what happened is I was with the police officers
and about 15, 16 minutes later, they came back around again.
-The same gang?
-The same gang.
-A taxi driver flagged us down.
And he said there was a big machete dropped underneath the taxi.
-That... That was the machete.
In the last year, jewellery stores have been hit hard all over London.
I've found an armed robber called Topkat,
who specialises in jewellery stores.
What kind of shops do you look for in particular?
Topkat uses mopeds to steal from high-street jewellers.
We're in west London to see how an armed robbery is planned.
Is it essential that you scout somewhere before you go for it?
What's your role?
CCTV footage shows that the easiest way to rob a jewellery store
is to go in through the front door during trading hours.
We took Topkat to check out some jewellers
to see if they're properly protected.
So, with a place like this, how would you rob this one?
So that... We found a shop that, actually,
you wouldn't bother trying to rob?
The next-best way to smash your way into a shop is through the window.
And it wasn't long before Topkat found a new target.
-So that's a target there, yeah?
I mean, they've got the metal kind of, er, bars there.
Is that not a deterrent?
And how would you do that one?
Through the glass?
So you'd all split?
So you wouldn't even try to get past that metal bar? That's enough?
Surely a place like that would be alarmed.
I mean, they've got high-value products.
Why would a moped be essential to doing this robbery here?
And, I mean, do you go armed?
And have you ever used acid on anybody?
You get me?
But instead, I mean, I imagine they're scarred for life.
Yeah, I guess.
Say someone in a jewellery shop just, you know,
earning, like, minimum wage, going about their work, and then you come
-running in and throw acid at them.
Like, how does that make you feel?
What goes through your mind when you're doing smash and grab?
-Do you get a lot of adrenaline?
Like, can you explain to me the feelings you experience?
Yeah, no, please.
Why especially do you feel you need to make money?
And what got you into it, if you mind me asking?
-So when the riots stopped, you continued?
-There's a lot of people like yourself...
..who haven't got a job, who are struggling and that,
but you don't see them, you know,
riding out as a moped gang doing such a violent crime.
-What do you feel gives you the excuse to do that?
Is there one?
-That's life, though, no?
To be honest, I was pretty disgusted by Topkat's attitude.
Throwing acid in the face of innocent people
is as low as you can get.
Serious armed robbers like him
could face a life sentence in prison if they're caught.
But many of these guys start out in much lower-level crime.
I started this investigation by meeting mobile phone thief Mr X.
He's 21 years old but I worry
that he could get into more serious crime.
I wanted to know if there was anything
that could turn his life around.
I knew he had tried his hand as a professional online gamer.
But he told me something else off-camera.
His real ambition was to race cars.
What's it going to take for you to stop doing this?
Could your way out of this life be racing?
-So that's the dream?
I decided to see if I could encourage Mr X
to quit his life of crime by calling up a contact in motor racing.
Jay Marshall has trained drivers who've raced in Formula One.
He's also a talent spotter looking for the next world champion.
Normally, this is a lot... Got a lot more cars in it.
The guys are away testing at the moment.
We effectively only pretty much run
what are effectively baby Formula One cars.
Yeah, Renault Sport, yeah, Formula Three.
We're doing F2 this year.
And basically we're a service provider
-to anyone who wants to go racing.
And I'm involved with the driver evaluation and development.
This is one of the Formula Renaults that you just mentioned.
-All cars nowadays, formula cars, gears are on the paddles.
Jay's not letting Mr X in a race car until he's proved himself worthy.
So, first, he must pass some psychometric tests
to check his ability.
Right, so, if you wanna sit down...
The perception speed test, which is
the balls bouncing around in the sphere.
You have to either count them consciously or guess.
It's the subconscious parts of the brain that are doing the guessing.
This is a little bit more abstract.
It sort of measures your spatial awareness.
Yeah, no, it goes faster.
Next one's learning efficiency.
How you might remember things in order.
This test is more about your characteristics
than it is your abilities -
so are you competitive? Are you a team player? That kind of thing.
OK. So if you've got the... You've got the idea of it,
so what we'll do is we'll leave you to get on with those
and then we'll come back in sort of 15 or 20 minutes, all right?
So, Jay, you've allowed a guy who's involved in crime,
with a mask on, to come and complete your test.
Yeah, the idea's that we open up the doors to as many people as possible.
I've already looked at one of the tests
and one of the perception speed tests,
-he's already in the top 99% of human beings.
We already know that part of his brain is racing-driver-shaped,
-if you like.
Do you think it's possible for someone like our friend here to get
into the world of racing even though he's got this sort of criminal past?
It's not impossible. It'd be difficult.
And, again, it depends how fast he is.
Mr X has done enough to get into the simulator.
OK, are you comfortable?
This is a replica of a Formula Renault car,
and is used for professional driver assessments.
OK, off you go. When you get into the rhythm,
it'll be the third gear here.
Use all the road you can, man, at any given point.
Bit more on the throttle, then down to third and brake.
Mr X is racing round part of Silverstone -
home of the British Grand Prix.
Most drivers who start professional training here
will lap this section in about 54 seconds.
But Mr X just beat that, clocking at 52.8.
-All right, then, I'm going to stop you there.
And he thinks he can do better.
Now Mr X is going to try and beat the lap record.
Don't forget to breathe, all right? Breathing's really important.
If you imagine it as a pendulum,
where you just stop slightly at each end and then breathe out,
and you breathe out a little bit quicker than you breathe in.
If you come off the brakes too quickly,
the front will pop up quicker,
which means the weight will come off the front wheels.
Another ten laps. Are you all right, you fit? Cool.
So, how is he doing?
Yeah, he's doing very well.
We've compared his data with a young driver
-who is already on an F1 programme.
And he's already... He's already... He's already beaten that.
-He's already beaten?
-He's already beaten that, yeah.
That's incredible, isn't it?
He's already got what it takes to be a racing driver, yeah.
HE CHUCKLES Come on!
-MR X CHUCKLES
-Good job, man, good job.
So, Jay, what does that mean, then? You're both celebrating.
Yeah, well, it means he's beaten the guy that we normally use
to develop the simulator, who's a competent racing driver.
-Within four sessions, he's beaten his time.
He smashed his record.
By a full tenth, which is, you know, on a track that's only
two corners long... Sorry, three corners long.
It's impressive, yeah.
-So, good job.
-Thank you very much.
Did you expect him to come and beat your titleholder
From a skill point of view, you know, he's a unique individual,
you know, with a unique story and a unique position in life.
You know, we've got to go...
-We've got to get him on track.
And if I was a manager, if I was a driver manager,
and he had the money, I would be...
I'd be one of the people at his door.
Mr X HAS got the skills to be a professional race-car driver.
But to have a career he would need an investor, because the price
to keep a racing team on the road starts at about 200 grand per year.
Even Lewis Hamilton, the current world champion,
was supported by his dad, who worked three jobs.
So, walking away today,
what are you going to take with you, do you think?
..to be honest with you.
Reporter Livvy Haydock meets three of the UK's newest type of criminal, thieves who commit their crimes using mopeds.
All from London, they have contributed to an alarming rise in violent crime in the city. In 2017 there were over 23,000 crimes committed on motorbikes, an average of 64 per day. This is a 163% rise on the previous year.
Livvy rides on the back of a moped with a thief who points out which members of the public make good targets and which ones are protecting themselves. She also accompanies an armed robber as he scouts jewellers in Notting Hill to point out security flaws.
One man, who had previously boasted about being a good race car driver, is helped by Livvy to quit crime when she is able to get him a chance to impress in a Formula 1 Renault test session.
Finally, Livvy learns about the advanced phone security hacking involved in making the thefts profitable. One thief is able to sell five of the latest smartphones, all stolen within an afternoon, for Â£150-Â£250 each, when the normal price on the black market is Â£30-40 per phone. This higher price is due to the thief's buyer ability to recycle the phones abroad without any loss of functionality.