Bikers have said that a recent spate of attacks could be stopped if police were given permission to chase moped drivers – warning that criminals currently feel able to attack staff working for Deliveroo, and similar businesses like UberEats, without fear.
One courier, Jabed Hussain, described how he was out delivering food last Thursday night when he was targeted by attackers who sprayed acid in his face.
“It was kind of burning on my face, like a stream of fire on my face,” he said, recounting the attack. "I was just like, ‘My face is gone.' I was like, ‘It’s getting worse, more hot, more stream.'”
He said the delivery services had supported him following the attack, but that he is reluctant to go back out on the road.
Drivers said the police were too scared to chase thieves on mopeds, following recent incidents in which the criminals fell off during the pursuit and injured themselves, resulting in sanctions for the officers involved.
One called on the government to authorise police to "chase thieves and give life sentences for acid attacks".
“They should act now, the police should act now, there aren’t enough police on the streets,” said the driver, who works for Deliveroo, UberEats, and Jinn.
More than a hundred bikers, the majority delivery drivers, brought London’s Parliament Square to a near-standstill on Tuesday afternoon by parking their vehicles on the street in the shadow of the Palace of Westminster.
Five individuals, including Hussain, were attacked with acid last week. Criminals are increasingly turning to acid in London, potentially following a crackdown on the possession of knives.
The riders at the protest were demanding that police be given extra resources, and authorised to deal with a recent spate of acid attacks and moped crime which has left many scared to do their job.
Many of the drivers on the protest said they were hard workers trying to make a living who felt they were being ignored by the police and wanted tougher enforcement of the law.
“The police say they can’t do nothing because they're not allowed to chase [riders],” said Tayyab Sulton, who works for Deliveroo. "We’re going to show [the police] that if they won’t chase them there’s going to be more attacks.
“We are scared to work but we pay rent, council tax, motorbike insurance, road tax. We pay everything but we’re not safe in London."
Pedro, a Deliveroo courier from Brazil who declined to give his full name, said working delivering food to Londoners was now a risky job: “There’s no stop. The crime is everywhere. Doesn’t matter where you work. They don’t stop and the police doesn’t do anything. They say they cannot chase them because they can’t have an accident. They are not allowed to do anything about it but they should change this idea.”
Kemal Himmel, another Deliveroo courier who had his vehicle stolen while on a delivery, said the government should tell police officers to start chasing moped thieves, even if it puts the criminal at risk: "They need to chase the guys and put more strictness into the law. People here are trying to work but they’re getting kicked off their bikes. Police don’t care about us."