Delivery drivers are too scared to work after dark because of the rise in acid attacks, HuffPost UK was told today as hundreds of moped riders descended on Parliament.
The drivers spoke of being held at knife point by armed gangs as they called on the Government to do more to make the streets safe.
Figures obtained by the BBC revealed acid attacks had increased 175% between 2012 and 2017 - with 208 occurring in London alone last year.
Last Thursday, five people were sprayed with acid in a wave of attacks over the course of 90 minutes in north-east London.
One of the victims, Jabed Hussain, was a delivery driver - fitting into a growing trend of gangs focusing on moped and motorbike riders.
Just hours before today’s protest it was revealed three men with bandanas threw a substance into the face of a paramedic responding to a 999 call in north London on Sunday.
In Parliament Square this afternoon, hundreds of riders beeped their horns and chanted as they called on the Government to put more police on the streets.
Many of the riders spoke angrily of how they felt their safety wasn’t being taken seriously by police.
One Ubereats driver said: “Our lives are on the line. We are there to do our job, mate, and we can’t do our job.
“It’s getting worse everyday. Some people finish work at seven o’clock or eight o’clock because we are scared.”
When asked if he felt the police were doing enough to protect them, he said: “They aren’t chasing the boys, there’s no police on the motorbikes. Why are there no police on the motorbikes? Why are they in the jeep cars?”
Another added: “They are protecting the criminals.”
Khalique, a 36-year-old courier, told HuffPost UK how he was attacked by a gang of youths on bikes.
He said: “A couple of months ago I was chased by a couple of bikes and they basically took their weapon out and tried to nick my bike. It was a knife.”
He added: “Because of that impact and an incident that happened to one of my colleagues I stopped working the late shift.
“Most of my friends cut down their hours. They don’t do work after nine o’clock or maybe nine-thirty because when it gets dark this is the scary time to work.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan called for a “zero tolerance approach” to combating the attacks “if we are to rid the streets of this scourge.”
He said: “I am pleased that the Home Secretary seems willing to take action and I urge her to change the law to recognise people are now carrying these dangerous substances with the intention of using them as an offensive weapon.
“I also want to see the introduction of tougher sentencing for those who think that is acceptable to do so.
“We also need to make sure there is better control over access to these substances. Just like a knife can be used lawfully in our kitchens or unlawfully by criminals, many of us use household cleaning products in our daily life.
“We now have to say to manufacturers and those in retail that they need to be more responsible and that means Government looking at a change in how these products are sold.
“It is also important that we clarify sentencing guideline for judges so that the full force of the law can be applied to those committing these truly appalling and life changing crimes.
Louise Haigh, Labour’s Shadow Policing Minister, said: “Nobody should go to work in fear of what may happen to them on their shift. That’s why we need to toughen laws on the sale of acid and create an offence similar to knife possession for anyone carrying acid without good reason.
“We also need to ensure the police have adequate resources to properly investigate this wave of moped-enabled crime and deliver enhanced training for motorcycle pursuits so that offenders are brought to justice.
“However, the truth is that the Tories have spent seven years imposing deep cuts to the police, including slashing 20,000 police officers, which have left forces stretched to breaking point.”
The paramedic attacked in Tottenham on Sunday escaped serious injury as the substance was not acid, but the ambulance service said it caused enough “irritation” to warrant the paramedic being taken to hospital.
She has since been discharged.
The attack follow a spike in acid attacks across the capital with two teenagers being arrested for an alleged string of attacks on moped riders last Thursday that left one man with “life-changing injuries”.
In April, an attack at an east London nightclub left twelve injured and on 21 June Resham Khan, 21, and Jameel Mukhtar, 37, suffering life-changing injuries after they were doused in sulphuric acid as they waited in traffic.
The Government announced a review will be undertaken into the punishments for acid attacks, with Home Secretary Amber Rudd saying that perpetrators must feel the full force of the law”.
“I am clear that life sentences must not be reserved for acid attack survivors,” she wrote in the Sunday Times.
Proposals to ensure acid and other corrosive substances can be classed as dangerous weapons are among the changes suggested, as are measures to restrict its sale.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has separately called for judges to sentence those convicted of carrying acid as harshly as those guilty of carrying other offensive weapons and has called for the government to adopt a “zero tolerance” approach to the offending.
According to Jaf Shah, head of Acid Survivors Trust International, there were 720 recorded acid attack in Britain in 2016, a number that had doubled nationally over a three-year period.
Responding to claims the police were not doing enough to tackle the acid attacks, Detective Chief Inspector Mike West, the Met’s lead for corrosive based crime, said: “The Met police will not tolerate any attack using corrosive and noxious substances on anyone and will bring offenders to justice.
“We are working with the Home Office and other partners to create a strategy on how to deal with corrosive attacks, including looking into possible restrictions around the sale of corrosive substances in conjunction with retailers, as well as the manufacturing process.
“We recognise the lasting impact on victims of corrosive attacks, and are improving our response through training, investment and joint working.
“We would appeal to all parents, teachers and other agencies who work with young people to challenge those they think may be carrying corrosive substances, and work to divert them from committing a serious offence or being injured themselves.
“Finally, we would encourage anyone who has been a victim of a corrosive attack to report it to police, and we appeal to parents, relatives and professionals to assist us in identifying and challenging those who carry or seek to carry noxious substances in public without a lawful excuse.
“Similarly, if someone is in fear of being attacked with acid, or knows someone who is going to use it, they need to report it to police or confidentially through Crimestoppers and it will be actioned and you will be fully supported.”