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Men who carried out over 70 phone snatches in six weeks jailed

A pair of thieves who used a moped to carry out over 70 mobile phones snatches in just six weeks have been jailed.

Randy Kavungu, 21 from Islington and Darius James, 22, from Barnet were identified and brought to justice by specially trained police officers.

Both men pleaded guilty at Hendon Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, 3 January to offences including robbery and threatening with an offensive weapon and were sentenced to four and a half years’ imprisonment each.

Detective Inspector Alan Biggs, from Operation Venice, said: “Kavungu and James set out with a pre-agreed plan to steal the phones of as many people as they could, using a moped to target lone victims in open spaces.

“They had no regard for the harm they could have caused by their dangerous driving and it is only by extreme fortune that no-one was more seriously injured.

Men who carried out over 70 phone snatches in six weeks jailed Harrow Online
Darius James. Credit: Met Police

“We were determined to catch these two suspects who were causing so much harm within our city. Our investigation involved examining hundreds of hours of CCTV as well as complex mobile phone analysis and we are pleased this means they will now be off our streets and unable to commit further offences for a long time.”

Between Monday, 24 May and Wednesday, 30 June 2021 officers became aware of a spate of moped-enabled robberies and phone snatch thefts committed primarily in central and north London boroughs.

The suspects – a rider and a pillion passenger – typically struck between 07:00hrs and 09:00hrs and targeted lone morning commuters using their phones while walking or standing on pavements.

They would then ride the moped towards them from behind at speed, with the passenger grabbing the phone while the driver rode off.

Men who carried out over 70 phone snatches in six weeks jailed Harrow Online
Randy Kavungu. Credit: Met Police

On one occasion, a victim had coffee thrown in their face while another had their finger broken during the robbery. The defendants also admitted to threatening a witness with a hammer following one of the incidents.

Their investigation revealed that the same moped was used in all the robberies.

The thieves would cover the number plate before carrying out the thefts meaning there was no simple way to link the bike and the suspects. Officers therefore used overt police patrols, CCTV, witness testimony and other communications data to build a profile of the two offenders.

On 14 July 2021, warrants were executed at the home addresses of Kavungu and James. Both were arrested and taken into custody.

Detective Chief Superintendent Lee Hill, Head of the Violent Crime Taskforce, said: “Tackling violent crime in all its forms is our top priority and we are targeting robbers who fuel violent crime in London. We know every robbery has an impact on the victim and increases fear and concern within our communities.

“Our Operation Venice team was set up in direct response to a spike in moped-enabled robberies and as this case demonstrates, they have been working ever since to target repeat offenders and linked series of offending across the capital.

“The team have a unique insight into offending patterns and the way these gangs operate which assists our uniformed officers conducting patrols in hotspot locations. This means they can be in the right place at the right time more often to prevent further offences and hopefully catch those intent on committing crime in the act.”