Blue badge thefts on the increase

The number of blue badge thefts in London has more than quadrupled in the last decade, new figures have revealed.

By Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

A sign saying 'Disabled badge holders only' with the parking logo and disabled logo
Photo: Leo Reynolds, Flickr

The number of blue badge thefts in London has more than quadrupled in the last decade, new figures have revealed.

While 1,230 of the badges were stolen in the capital in 2014, the number has risen almost every year since then to hit 6,415 in 2023.

Blue badges are intended to help people with disabilities or health conditions park closer to their destination, but fraud is widespread in London and other big cities across the country.

Paul Slowey, founder of Blue Badge Fraud Investigations – a community interest company working to tackle the problem – said the new figures were “a sad reflection on London in 2024”.

He added: “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members, but on average 18 Londoners a day find themselves a victim of crime purely because they are disabled. This is clearly unacceptable.

“I warn offenders: the badges have serial numbers on the front. They are easy to identify and it’s an easy crime to solve if the police can prioritise it. The courts take a very dim view of drivers who use stolen badges.”

The data was released in response to a written question from Unmesh Desai, a Labour member of the London Assembly who argues that a lack of funding for both the Metropolitan Police and borough councils is behind the crime’s sharp rise.

He said: “Behind each of these numbers is a Londoner robbed of their ability to live and travel independently – and a criminal using their badge to avoid parking fines and effectively defraud taxpayers.

“These figures are the outcome of a perfect storm of underfunding and neglect of disabled Londoners. Londoners have seen overstretched police budgets and underfunded councils, both of whom need investment into staff and training to catch those stealing and misusing badges.

“With the right funding, training and data sharing to help protect disabled drivers from being targeted by criminals, we can tackle this problem. I also encourage blue badge holders to hide their badges overnight or purchase a Blue Badge Protector.”

But Tory assembly member Susan Hall – who stood against Sadiq Khan in the recent mayoral election – said the blame lay with the Labour mayor.

She pointed out that the Met Police was offered Government funding to hire 4,557 new officers last year, but feel short by over 1,000, as only 3,468 were recruited.

“Unfortunately, the mayor was the only police and crime commissioner in the country not to meet these recruitment targets and the funding was lost,” said Ms Hall.

The mayor has previously said that “lots of reasons” were to blame for the Met’s failure to hit the target, such as tighter vetting requirements for new recruits and concerns over salary levels during a cost of living crisis which has hit London particularly hard.

The Government argues that the Met is the highest funded force in England and Wales, and is set to receive up to £3.5billion in 2024/25, an increase of up to £119million on the previous year. This includes £185million in recognition of the increased demands the force faces from policing the capital city.

Ms Hall continued: “We are incredibly concerned that crimes like theft have effectively become decriminalised under Sadiq Khan’s watch, with no investigation or resolution for victims.

“We are very happy to help raise awareness amongst London’s vulnerable drivers of this 400 per cent increase in blue badge theft, and share information on how they can best protect themselves from this mayor’s lawlessness.”

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