I fully appreciate that when you are directly involved in something and sit very much in the middle of it, you can fail to see an outsider’s viewpoint, writes Selina Lavender, MAG chairman.
However I am absolutely incensed by some of the viewpoints coming back to me from a number of sources in relation to motorcycle crime, and I thought it worth sharing some of this experience with you through this column in the hope that others may learn and carry the message forward.
A current issue for MAG and riders is motorcycle theft, and the increasing lengths to which criminals will go to steal machines. It’s already prevalent in a number of areas and spreading. The stolen machines are then being used as the vehicle to enable further crimes – a crime wave that has been labelled ‘moped-enabled crime’; the stolen machines are used to enable street crime, such as mobile phone and bag snatching, and we know they’re also used to enable further thefts of motorcycles and scooters.
We all know police forces are stretched – we’re constantly told that budgets’ve been slashed, and many of us’ve had the experience of calling 101 to report a crime; an experience that in itself can be harrowing. I personally have waited an hour for 101 to be answered, and I know of others who’ve given up waiting for a call-handler to pick up.
MAG has been involved in a number of meetings recently whose purpose was to discuss and address motorcycle and moped-enabled crime. It’s become apparent that those outside the motorcycling world don’t have much of an idea about motorcycles and their security features; I found myself sat in a meeting explaining a steering lock, the reason why ground anchors are not popular, and how even the most technologically advanced security gadgets can be disabled. MAG and I have no issue with taking the time to explain and educate those who do not ride, and we often expect to do so – that is not the issue. What we do not expect or accept is the blame being put squarely on to the rider; not just the inference, but the outright statement that it is the rider’s fault for choosing ‘that form of transport’, and not taking ‘adequate measures’, or that it is the riding community’s issue and they should better police themselves.
According to a number of police forces and police representatives, there isn’t an issue with motorcycles and scooters being stolen in their area, and this is the line being reeled out in meetings; either that or that it’s a London-based issue: something that we know to be blatantly untrue, and we have requested the data from all of the UK police forces.
In some circles there seems to be an assumption that the criminals involved in the ‘moped-enabled’ crimes are using their own machines and, as the machines used don’t generally display a number plate, then of course that could be the case. Therefore these riders must be part of the riding community, and it’s down to the riding community to address the issue of the criminal behaviour – absolutely no recognition that the machine being used in the criminal activity has initially been stolen, that an individual was involved in that crime, that they may have lost their only transport, and their livelihood is now in jeopardy. And certainly no understanding of the lengths some criminals will go to in order to steal the machines, such as the case where Ricky Hayden was killed and his father seriously injured or where Jabed Hussain had acid squirted in his face.
Another spokesperson in a senior meeting recently put the blame very squarely on the manufacturers. I was not privy to the exact wording, but MAG believes that any solution to the crime issue requires a multi-agency approach, and we are fully aware that any introduction of additional security measures on new machines will take a long time to trickle through, having little if any effect on the current issue. Another spokesperson in the same meeting suggested offering free compulsory basic training (CBT) to all offenders. The person that passed on this gem was spitting feathers when they spoke to me! The thought that little Johnny would then have the skills to not wobble away, but ride proficiently and thus be more likely to escape from any police pursuit… I’m sure I needn’t say more.
I even had a conversation earlier this week with a MAG member who recovered a stolen motorcycle which they had seen posted on a local Facebook page. I’m sure you’ve all seen similar things if you have a Facebook account: ‘seen on the footpath, obviously not supposed to be there’. This person, realising the bike was very close to their home, and someone’s pride and joy, recovered the machine and then had what turned out to be a very painful process going through the police to get the machine returned to its rightful owner. A process he tells me left him feeling like a criminal for doing the right thing.
Am I emotional about this? You bet I am, and I know a lot of other people feel the same way. It’s an issue that MAG will continue to spend time on because it affects all riders. If it hasn’t yet directly affected you then watch out for your next insurance renewal quote – you may find that even shopping around won’t secure you the same lower premium you paid last time.
With the current level of motorcycle and motorcycle-related crime in the UK, I’m certain that some of you reading this will’ve individual experience of it. It affects not just riders, but also business and the future of motorcycling. I urge you all to write with your own experiences directly to your MPs and raise this issue, as unfortunately it is not going away any time soon, and we need your help to get the people in power to understand it from a rider’s viewpoint.