I’ve said it before on this blog, ill-informed journalists at the BBC are in the vanguard when it comes to misrepresenting crimes involving motorcycles.
But BBC Home Affairs Correspondent Danny Shaw’s recent article The moped and scooter crime wave that has swept London includes a long awaited recognition that both the BBC’s and the mainstream media’s use of the clickbait phrase ‘moped crime’ is factually inaccurate unless those crimes are committed exclusively on bikes whose engine capacities do not exceed 50cc.
The Metropolitan Police refer to the “step-through-frame” motorcycles commonly used as scooters – mopeds are strictly speaking a subset of scooters, with an engine capacity of less than 50cc.
Kudos to him. Whether other BBC journalists and the rest of the mainstream media now start adopting the more generic ‘scooter crime’ remains to be seen, though even if they do it’ll make little difference to the quality of much of the debate surrounding the reporting of crimes involving motorcycles, scooters or mopeds.
The real problem is that for too long the presence of a bike during a crime has been presented as a sinister omen rather than it being a convenient tool for a criminal.
Imagine for a moment the Westminster Bridge terror attack being reported in the papers as ‘car crime’, or the mainstream media writing about the Taliban as if it was an organisation of misguided Toyota Hilux enthusiasts. Never mind the criminal motivation, the vehicles are the important headline factors, right?
Some will no doubt argue that moped crime is no more than a descriptor and analogous to that other oft-used phrase ‘knife crime’. But this argument simply falls flat. A knife is rightly viewed as an offensive weapon in a public place. A scooter is not and remains a legal (if slightly ridiculous) means of ecologically relevant urban transport. It is simply unfair to equate a means of transport with crime in general. The logical result? A return to petrol station helmet bans and the unfounded suspicion of criminality against all motorcyclists.
Street crime, theft, robbery and assault should be reported principally as such – no matter what tool a criminal uses to accomplish them with.