London council considers cash-only parking to thwart meter thefts
Organised crime gangs armed with sledgehammers and vacuum cleaners have stolen more than £120,000 from parking meters in west London in the past year, Kensington and Chelsea Council officials have revealed.
Criminals are smashing the meters open or drilling holes in them before inserting vacuum cleaner hoses to suck out the coins, the council reported. There have also been multiple incidents in which vehicles have been driven into the machines to uproot them and provide access to the cash storage areas.
The problem has become so acute that the council is considering ending all cash payments so that all motorists have to pay through a smart phone app or by making a phone call.
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. 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.”
However, a recent AA poll of 17,000 drivers indicated that 70 per cent are less likely to use a car park where only phone payments are accepted.
The organisation’s president Edmund King said: “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.”