Moped gangs routinely rob pedestrians with some having been caught dozens of times…..and never jailed.
As officers battle an epidemic of moped muggings, police are now warning the public not to stand on a curb or street corner with their phone in their hand or risk having it torn from their grasp by thugs who can sell on a single handset for £100.
Up to 50,000 offences a year are being committed by thieves on scooters and mopeds in the capital, while some teenage thieves are being arrested up to 80 times but not sent to jail.
Most of the muggings are committed by gangs on stolen vehicles and officers have seen a spike in moped thefts which has rocketed by 41 per cent in the last 12 months.
Now police are warning it is dangerous to get your phone out in public and they are advising pedestrians to use hands free headsets instead to deter criminals.
Scotland Yard superintendent Mark Payne claimed yesterday that moped muggers are snatching 20 phones an hour.
The robbers, who usually operate with a pillion passenger, are capable of recognising a mobile phone in a target’s pocket from 30 metres away.
They even practice with friends to perfect their crime before going out on the streets to steal.
Superintendent Payne said: ‘It’s a good idea not to stand next to a curb or street corner, those are easy places for someone to snatch it out of your hand.
‘We did a test and thieves can recognise an expensive phone from 30 metres away.
‘We’ve tested and asked “what sort of phone do I have in my pocket” and often they can.
‘They practice taking phones off their friends before going out and stealing them for real and they are mainly going for iPhones.
‘If they can snatch it out of your hand while it’s still turned on they will re-programme it but if they can’t they will sell it off for parts.
‘There is a big market for phone parts as well and it is all being driven by the fact that you can steal a moped.
‘They drive along the pavement or the road and take it out of your hand, they can take around 20 an hour and an iPhone 7 can go for around £100.’
He said: ‘Using a hands free would make it more difficult, they are looking for someone with a phone in their hand so anything like that would make it more difficult for thieves.’
Over the last 12 months a total of 15,100 mopeds and motorbikes were stolen in London compared to 10,704 the previous year.
Gangs of mainly teenage boys can steal scooters by simply breaking their steering locks.
Detectives are targeting at least 500 known offenders behind the spree.
Yesterday Superintendent Payne compared the desirability of mopeds to thieves as the ubiquitous Ford Cortina in the 1980s, saying: ‘This is the Ford Cortina of the 21st century, they are easy to steal and when we spoke to the manufacturer they said they can fix the problem but it’s going to be three or four years away.
‘They are in the Ford Cortina bracket, you do not need any skill to ride them, you don’t even have to change gear.
‘The theft is all done on a stolen bike.
‘Thieves can steal these bikes in less than 60 seconds, it’s really quick.
‘Thieves take hold of the handlebars and break the steering wheel lock by pulling it, it’s like a lump of metal.
‘Most bikes are then stolen by just walking it round the corner and they either sell it on or use it to commit crime.’
The warning come after a spate of muggings in central London, with riders using weapons such as machetes and hammers to intimidate and injure their victims as they try and snatch their mobile phones.