Petrol retailers nationwide are being warned to be on their guard against crime and disorder over the Halloween period – particularly targeted intimidation by groups of motorcyclists, brought together via social media.
Rob Web, Partnership Inspector at the Brent Borough of the Metropolitan Police, said there had been an increase in scooter and moped riders taking to the streets during the Halloween period in recent years, but last year, particularly in the south and south east London areas, this had led to moped-enabled crime and disorder within petrol stations and retailers.
But the problem could become more widespread this year, with urban areas the most likely targets, hence the MPS has issued guidance to retailers on precautions they may take (see below).
“While the Metropolitan Police focus is obviously on keeping London safe, it is wise to consider that in previous years there have been a number of parallel events across the country which have caused issues,” Inspector Web.
“Groups following the main protagonists on social media may choose to emulate their behaviour in their own areas remote from the main body of riders. In light of this I would suggest that retailers across the country and particularly in urban areas consider taking suitable precautions for the Halloween period.
“The groups involved are very careful not to signal their intent to the police, so it is vital that retail sites are alive to the fact that groups of motorcyclists may attend at any point from today (Friday October 27) onwards.
“We are making provision to tackle any activity that may occur, but a vital strand of our strategy is to encourage those potentially affected to adopt some self-protection measures.
“If the ride-out occurs in London, we’ll be utilising our @MetPoliceEvents twitter account to give out relevant updates when we can, so petrol retailers should keep an eye on that.
“Also, there is the alternative non-emergency way of contacting the Met via the twitter account @MetCC. Depending on the demand on the 999/101 system - it will also probably be quicker doing it that way.
“While the feed will be entirely London centric it may be advisable for retailers across the country to follow that feed as a bellwether of any potential activity in their respective areas.”
Advice to garages during the Halloween period
1. Check CCTV systems to ensure they are operating correctly, so that cameras provide clear images of vehicles, registration plates and riders. Make sure cameras are covering vulnerable areas and consider displaying prominent signage re the use of CCTV and ANPR where available.
2. Consider requesting that riders make vehicle number plates visible.
3. For the Halloween weekend, we advise operating in ‘night trading’ mode, restricting access to kiosks and shops and removing all non-essential items such as marketing displays and loose signage from public areas, particularly open forecourts, to minimise the potential for theft or damage.
4. If you feel comfortable in doing so, require motorcyclists to remove helmets and make their faces visible, as it can help with identification later on if required. This may need to be supported by notices affixed to pumps to alert customers prior to drawing fuel.
5. Where possible, consider requiring customers to prepay for fuel. Clear notices with this request may provide a sufficient deterrent to those contemplating fuel theft, however we appreciate this may be tricky for some retailers.
6. Consider refusing to supply fuel to those filling jerry cans, as these are often used in conjunction with unmarked vans to move stolen motorbikes used in crime.
7. Consider refusing to supply fuel to groups of motorcyclists. We recommend this action only be taken if groups are seen to behaving suspiciously or disruptively.
Please contact police and notify them of any suspicious activity, including groups gathering or engaging in anti-social behaviour, particularly involving motorcycles.
Additionally retailers may wish to consider the following measures which have been adopted at some sites in London:
• Ensure all staff are alerted to the possibility of a rideout and are suitably briefed on how to respond
• Remove any “A frames”, baskets or other equipment which is located outside of the site.
• Close and lock any forecourt bunkers
• Ensure any loose stock or uncollected newspapers are brought inside.
• Consider liaison with the relevant local fire authority that over the period 27th October to 1st November only: all fire extinguishers be moved from the forecourt area to the interior of the kiosk or shop but ensuring they are easily accessible to colleagues in case of emergency. (This follows from events of previous years where extinguishers have been deliberately stolen to be used as weapons).