Now Ulez 'blade runners' start targeting camera vans - as they are graffitied, vandalised and have their tyres slashed

13 September 2023, 14:26 | Updated: 13 September 2023, 14:57

Ulez vans have been targeted by opponents of the scheme, having their tyres slashed and windows smashed
Ulez vans have been targeted by opponents of the scheme, having their tyres slashed and windows smashed. Picture: Social media

By Will Taylor

Anti-Ulez "blade runners" have begun slashing tyres and vandalising "spy" vans used to detect if cars meet London's emissions standards.

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Activists opposed to Sadiq Khan's flagship policy - which has now expanded to cover the entire capital - have begun attacking the vehicles after launching hundreds of attacks on the cameras.

The vans are equipped with ANPR cameras which scan the number plates of passing vehicles to ensure if they are compliant with Ulez. If not, the driver is billed £12.50 a day.

Pictures have now emerged on social media of camera vans having had their tyres slashed, windscreen smashed and graffiti daubed over it - one with the slogan "no Ulez".

The vans do not directly say they are enforcing Ulez but have Transport for London markings and say they are carrying ANPR cameras.

Read more: Sadiq Khan deploys Ulez vans to catch drivers after wave of vigilante vandalism on cameras

"Can we all send our thoughts and prayers to this poor ULEZ spy van that's looking rather... deflated.." one user wrote on Twitter.

"A ULEZ camera van was spray painted and had both rear tyres punctured in Maiden Lane yesterday. Another in Cray Road, Foots Cray, had its windscreen damaged. Sadiq Khan has deployed 20 of the vans with ANPR cameras to make drivers stick to his rules or pay £12.50 a day," one user said while uploading photos.

An image uploaded to a Facebook group dedicated to spotting the vans showed one in Tolworth with a towel over its camera.

Posted by Steve Stapley on Tuesday, September 12, 2023

The vehicles have been spotted in places including Crayford and Sidcup. One vehicle was seen being taken away by a recovery vehicle after it was targeted, while another was spotted outside a hospital in Hillingdon.

In one case, a Ulez van was blocked in its parking space by two vehicles including a larger van.

Read more: One in four new Ulez cameras already 'damaged or stolen' only days after expansion

Scotland Yard said: "We are aware of reports of damage to ANPR vans and are investigating."

Dubbing themselves "blade runners", opponents have been targeting Ulez cameras for months, especially in the build up to the London-wide expansion in August.

More than 500 crimes related to them have been recorded by the Met in the last five months, including 351 reports of cameras having been damaged and 159 were stolen.

Opponents, angry at facing yet another cost just to drive in London or disbelieving of the science behind the policy, have been seen using lengthy cutters to attack the gadgets.

The Met previously appealed for help finding a man who dressed in a high-viz jacket as he attacked one device.

Sadiq Khan has vowed to stand behind his policy, which he says is vital to tackle emissions and bring down premature deaths associated with air pollution.

He denied it was a cash grab, telling LBC: "The only reason we're expanding Ulez is because it's been shown to improve the quality of air."

But it caused a fight within Labour as Sir Keir Starmer said clean air initiatives should not add to the woes of people on lower incomes.

And the Tories have tried to bolster their support by opposing Ulez. They managed to hold on to Boris Johnson's old seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip by effectively turning that by-election into a vote on the policy.

Mr Khan later activated tens of millions of pounds of reserve money to put towards a widened scrappage scheme, allowing Londoners to change up their cars to ones that fit the standards so they can dodge a charge.

But it has done nothing to stop activists who are willing to risk a criminal record in damaging Ulez infrastructure.

Speaking earlier in the year, one "blade runner" said: "We are going to take down every single one no matter what."

The Met has launched "Operation Eremon", with a senior officer appointed to collect the reports of vandalism and theft and coordinate police investigations.

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