London

Gangs use vacuum cleaners to steal parking meter cash

Hole in parking meter Image copyright Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea/PA
Image caption Gangs are drilling holes into parking meters in order to use vacuum cleaners to suck cash out

Motorists have been urged not to use cash to pay for parking - because gangs are using vacuum cleaners to suck coins out of meters.

Criminals have been targeting machines in affluent Kensington and Chelsea, bagging tens of thousands of pounds in loose change.

Councillors in the west London borough said £120,000 has been stolen in the past year.

They urged drivers to pay via app or by phone.

Will Pascall, of Kensington and Chelsea Council 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."

Criminals are also driving into the meters or using sledgehammers to smash them open, the council said.

Image copyright Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea/PA
Image caption Criminals are also driving into the meters to break them open

More than 70 parking machines are currently in use across the borough.

An AA poll of 17,000 drivers indicated that 70% are less likely to use a car park where only phone payments are accepted.

Its 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."

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