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Police swoop on moped phone theft gang suspects

Police have cracked down on a suspected gang of teenage moped phone robbers thought to be behind a crimewave targeting City workers and tourists.

A 19-year-old man suspected of carrying out a spate of knifepoint snatches and handling stolen handsets was arrested at the home he shares with his mother in Camberwell at 4am.

A boy aged 15, who officers believe carried a Rambo blade, was seized in south London and two male youths, 17 and 18, were detained nearby.

City of London and Metropolitan Police detectives launched the crackdown on Wednesday ahead of a feared rise in robberies by thieves on bikes and scooters over the summer. Last year, recorded offences shot up 266 per cent in the six months between February and July.

Acting Inspector Dan Green, in charge of Operation Verditer, said some perpetrators could carry out 15 to 20 muggings in the space of a few hours.

Since January, his squad has recovered 400 mobiles — 150 of them returned to their owners.

He said: “If you come to the City to carry out this type of offence, you can expect a robust response. Every robbery has a significant impact on victims and leaves long-term implications.

“We know when there is nicer weather, more visitors come to London. They have their mobiles in their hands to seek directions or hire rides. Unfortunately, we know opportunistic criminals will target victims with phones.

“People need to remain vigilant and be aware of their surroundings when taking devices out in public spaces.”

The City force, which polices London’s Square Mile, is deploying uniformed and plain-clothes officers in hot spots as offenders prey on restaurant-goers and commuters.

Two dressed as Deliveroo riders were wrestled to the ground by the team outside Bloomberg’s headquarters last Thursday. The pair, aged 25 and 26, have been charged with 11 thefts in total and will appear at Westminster magistrates’ court on June 19.

Superintendent Bill Duffy urged anyone who has their phone stolen to report it immediately via 999.

He said: “This is a force priority. If you call us, we can get officers straight to the scene and look at CCTV to find them and deploy other tactics.

“These criminals are highly skilled. They know how to mount pavements on mopeds and bikes and they’ll take your phone in seconds. By the time you look up, they’ve gone. Our vision is to target perpetrators now and therefore reduce crime over summer months because they won’t be in circulation.”

Police are spraying criminals and their mopeds with a DNA spray in a bid to link them to crimes if they race away. Shop owners suspected of buying stolen handsets were also being raided.