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Gangs with VACUUM CLEANERS steal £120k from parking meters in London

"Janette Vosper" (2020-06-10)

Organised crime gangs armed with sledgehammers and vacuum cleaners have sucked coins worth £120,000 from parking meters across London.

Kensington and Chelsea Council reported the staggering figure had been guzzled from their machines in west London in the past 12 months.

Gangs are cracking the meters open using sledgehammers and motor vehicles, or boring holes through them before inserting best vacuum cleaners for pet hair cleaner nozzles to suck cash out. 

The council is considering ending cash payments to thwart criminals by reducing the amount of money in the meters. 

A parking meter has been pulled from the pavement in Kensington and Chelsea - the council say that thieves are using sledgehammers and motor cars to crack them open

It is urging motorists to pay for parking through its app or phone system.

More than 700 parking machines are currently in use across the borough.

Kensington and Chelsea Council's lead member for streets, planning and transport, Will Pascall said: 'We have gangs stalking the streets and smashing their way into machines to suck the cash out.

'We also now know from local police that this is funding further criminality in London, from drugs and trafficking to possibly violent crime.





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'It is a trend we need to stop and motorists going cashless is one way we can help tackle this.'

Jonny Combe, UK chief executive of parking payment firm PayByPhone, which is used by the council, said: 'Moving away from coins and relying on a mobile parking payment service is a great way for any council to reduce this type of theft and vandalism.

'Cashless parking also delivers convenience to drivers, as they can start a parking session in a matter of seconds and use their phones to extend the parking from anywhere - even from their smart watch.

'They don't have to worry about cutting appointments short to rush back to feed a meter.' 

A parking meter with a hole bored into it (left) and another which has had its face busted open (right)

An AA poll of 17,000 drivers indicated that 70% are less likely to use a car park where only phone payments are accepted.

The organisation's president Edmund King said: 'It is a sad state of affairs when parking meters are being ambushed by criminals armed with sledgehammers and vacuum cleaners.

'Whilst there is merit in cashless systems and they are becoming more commonplace, we do still find that some older drivers prefer to pay in cash or with contactless cards.'