Police have found “emerging links” between violent gang crime and the recent surge in acid and moped attacks across the London area.
Gangs and organised crime groups are increasingly deploying corrosive liquid as a weapon, according to the Metropolitan force’s lead for corrosive based crime in the city.
“We have a ‘gangs matrix’ we use for intelligence-led policing. There are around 3,000 gang members on it”, Deputy Superintendent Mike West told The Guardian.
“When we do a comparison with suspects we know, some are appearing on that matrix, so there is an emerging link between gangs and acid attacks,” he said.
Referring to the mode of transport often used in attacks, Mr. West added: “With those using it [acid as a weapon] on mopeds, they may not be in a defined gang but that doesn’t stop them being part of an organised criminal network.”
Deputy Metropolitan Police Commissioner Craig Mackey added: “Many of us have been unfortunate to see quite a bit in our services but acid attacks are really extraordinary and strike at something quite horrific in people’s psyche.”
Speaking to the Metro, Mr. Mackey explained there were 458-recorded acid offences in London last year and 63 per cent of them assaults. In 2015, there were 261 incidents.
Whilst such attacks are still far less common than incidents of knife crime, concern is growing, as sentences for carrying acid are less severe than a blade. Politicians discussed changing laws in response to the crime wave last month.
Mr. West said London police were also looking to change police powers, so it can crack down on those carrying corrosive substances if there is evidence they have a malicious intent.
“If you are simply carrying a corrosive substance in a bottle at the minute, you could be carrying it innocently,” he said.
“There needs to be a clear differentiation between when carrying it is innocent and when it becomes a criminal offence.
“We want to change the burden of proof, so if you’re carrying it in a different bottle, for example, a sports cap one – it’s more likely you can be charged. Obviously, the evidence needs to be there as well.
“We are meeting with the Home Office next week to discuss regulation.”