By Arab News
By Greg Wilcox
The Saudi Embassy in London has warned nationals and residents of the Kingdom to be careful in the city after a huge rise in the number of acid attacks, with the mayor saying he is “deeply concerned” by the increase.
The embassy’s advice comes as crimes using corrosive substances in the UK capital jumped in 2016 to 431 from 261 in 2015, a rise of 74 percent, Metropolitan Police figures show. So far this year, there have been 282 attacks.
That has resulted in increased public awareness and fear of the new scourge on London’s streets.
The latest attack came on Monday evening in the upmarket Knightsbridge area, popular with Gulf tourists when they visit London. The Metropolitan Police said a 47-year-old man was attacked by two men on a moped, who attempted to steal the man’s watch.
With the rapid rise in attacks, the Saudi Embassy has now urged its citizens to watch out while in the UK capital.
A statement issued by the embassy noted the increasing number of attacks using corrosive liquids by “professional thieves” in London’s tourist hotspots.
“We call upon visiting citizens and residents to exercise caution and avoid walking in alleys and dark places,” the embassy said.
The embassy reiterated the importance of avoiding carrying valuable items, and to tell the police and embassy in the event of an attack.
But while undoubtedly concerned, the mayor of London’s office insisted the capital remained “one of the safest cities in the world,” and as welcoming to visitors as ever.
A spokesperson for Mayor Sadiq Khan told Arab News: “London is the most open, welcoming and cosmopolitan city in the world. Last year, the capital attracted a record 19.1 million overseas visitors who come here to enjoy our unbeatable array of museums, restaurants, shop and theaters.
“London is also one of the safest cities in the world, and acid attacks are rare. The mayor is deeply concerned about the recent increase in these crimes and has been clear that they will not be tolerated.”
The mayor’s office went on to say that the Metropolitan Police is working hard to make the streets hostile territory for the criminals who use mopeds, motorbikes and bicycle. This includes dedicated operations, building intelligence about offenders and ongoing prevention work.
The recent spate of acid attacks has resulted in Deliveroo riders refusing to work in certain areas or past a certain time.
On July 13, a moped rider sprayed acid at six people during a 90-minute rampage. One of the victims was seriously injured, and two were Deliveroo riders.
The food-delivery company has said it will hire 50 staff dedicated to ensure the safety of its riders, as well as fit GoPro cameras on their drivers’ helmets as protection against attacks.
These moves come on the back of medics calling for the public to be educated on what to do in the aftermath of an attack.
Intervention by bystanders could “substantially improve the outcome” of acid attacks, senior figures from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) and Barts Health NHS Trust said.