E-bike enabled crime in London

E-bikes are growing ever increasingly popular, with Mintel recently stating that “one in seven (14%) cyclists now own an e-bike” in the UK.

However, e-bikes have unfortunately become a magnet for thieves and not just because of their high value for selling on. They are being stolen and used as a mode of transport to commit other crimes.

In 2021, the government was so concerned that the Defence and Security Accelerator (part of the Ministry of Defence) launched an idea submission drive to come up with solutions to tackle both e-scooter and e-bike enabled crime.

Two aspects included how to “render a stationary e-scooter or e-bike incapable of moving” and how to “bring a moving e-scooter or e-bike to a controlled stop.

We have collated examples of recent e-bike enabled crime, in London:

In March 2022, an ‘e-bike gang’ of four who violently stole jewellery worth £43,000 from an individual on a London street were jailed. All four of the convicted gang members rode electric bikes to and from the scene of the crime in November 2021.

In May 2022, Harrow Online reported that local police had issued a warning about two individuals travelling on e-bikes stealing phones from unexpecting victims’ hands.

In July 2022, the Metropolitan Police issued an appeal for information following high value watches being stolen. They stated “over recent weeks the number of knifepoint robberies where victims have been threatened to hand over their watches has increased, often by suspects on mopeds and e-bikes.

In August 2022, the Violent Crime Taskforce in London reported robberies taking place in the West End with the criminals using e-bikes and stolen phones being recovered.

In October 2022, a triple stabbing took place in Bishopsgate (at 10am in the morning outside office blocks) during an attempted robbery of a mobile phone. The two suspects rode electric bikes.

University College London recently mentioned they had “seen increased reports of electric bicycles being used to perpetrate these snatch thefts, sometimes in groups, with some criminals dressing as Deliveroo or other well-known delivery company riders, so victims do not suspect them as they cycle close to them on pavements.

Stealing jewellery and phones appear to be the main target items by electric bike criminals.

Our research shows that the Met Police had 972 reported mobile phone robberies in October 2022, a level not seen since 2019. Westminster was home to the largest number in October, 165 (a 73.8% rise compared with October 2021) of the 972 phone robberies. October and November are typically the peak months each year in London for this type of crime.

Mopeds have long been the chosen tool for gangs, having a disturbing history in London for links to crime. Whilst e-bikes are not necessarily easier and quicker to steal, they are currently less traceable and easier to hide, so it’s not a surprise to see a rise in their criminal use. However, e-bikes are capped at 15.5 mph so are never going to be as fast as scooters/motorbikes – at least the legal, speed restricted electric bikes.