About 10:30 on a Saturday morning in the north London borough of Islington, two men on mopeds race down the shopping corridor of Upper Street. Sheathed in helmets, gloves, and jackets, they look more like manic video game figures than humans. They weave through traffic and around double-decker buses at kamikaze velocity. Motorists flinch at their approach. The bikers pop wheelies and execute speedy figure eights along the busy street. Still, something more purposeful than joyriding would seem to be on their minds.
After three or four minutes, they abruptly turn off Upper and onto a quiet and leafy residential avenue. They hop the curb and cut their engines. Dismounting on the sidewalk, their helmets still on, they fall into a lengthy conversation. Their dialogue is known only to them. But there is something the men themselves likely don’t know: About a mile away, from a windowless room, two other men are watching them.
“They’re moving,” Sal says to Eric.
The two men sit 10 feet apart, behind a long console in Islington’s closed-circuit television (CCTV) control room, painted and carpeted in gray, with no adornments. Sal is middle-aged, while Eric is decades younger. Both wear casual office attire. No small talk passes between them. As the two bikers take off, Sal types away at his computer keyboard, prompting Camera 10 to appear on his screen. And there they are again, flying down Upper Street. As they disappear from Sal’s view, Eric quickly locates them on Camera 163. With a joystick, he zooms the camera onto the moped pulling up the rear until its license plate is legible.
Sal radios the police station. “We have two suspicious mopeds doing wheelies on Upper Street.”