ity Hall faces a growing wave of destruction against the cameras policing the Ulez expansion, it was warned on Wednesday, as one Tory MP backed vandalism by his constituents.
The Ulez extension to the London boundary came into force this week, with drivers of older, more polluting cars in outer London boroughs now liable for a £12.50 daily charge to use their vehicles.
TfL is battling against protesters sabotaging some of the almost 3,000 cameras needed to police the expansion.
Devices across the capital have been removed, had wires cut, been sprayed with paint and torn down.
Activists claim to have destroyed, defaced or stolen almost 600 cameras in the past few weeks.
Tory MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith said backs the self-proclaimed “blade runners” who have been vandalising the devices.
The MP for Chingford and Woodford Green told the Daily Mail: “A lot of people in my constituency have been cementing up the cameras or putting plastic bags over them.
“I am happy for them to do it because they are facing an imposition that no-one wants and they have been lied to about it.
“The actions you are seeing show how angry people are at what is being imposed on them.”
In the run up to the expansion, senior London Tories were accused of “condoning criminality” after it was revealed they help run social media groups that have celebrated the destruction of Ulez cameras and shared conspiracy theories about Sadiq Khan.
The Met on Wednesday said that in “recent weeks there has been an increase in criminal damage and theft to Ulez cameras and infrastructure”. The force confirmed it is investigating hundreds of reports of criminal damage.
Joseph Nicolls, 42, from Sidcup, was charged with criminal damage, handling stolen goods and aiding or abetting the destruction of property. He is due to stand trial in June next year.
A charge against another man was discontinued by the Crown Prosecution Service last month, the Met said.
Mr Khan’s Conservative opponent Susan Hall has pledged to scrap the expansion “on day one”, if she takes office.
Opponents of the Ulez have argued it will put a further financial burden on the poorest during a cost-of-living crisis.
But Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, whose daughter Ella died from air pollution in 2013, said she felt “relief” the expansion had finally happened.
“My borough is now not divided,” she said, referring to the fact that Ulez was previously contained within the North and South Circular roads.
“There are children who live on the South Circular. They live right on it. Look at the windows as you go past, all the black spots.
“We have one of London’s highest rates of asthma, in Lewisham.”
Nine-year-old Ella was the first person to have air pollution listed as a cause of death at a British inquest after she died from an asthma attack.
A TfL spokesman said: “Vandalism on our network is unacceptable and all incidents are reported to the police for investigation. Criminal damage to Ulez cameras puts the perpetrators at risk of prosecution and life-changing injuries, while simultaneously risking the safety of the public.
“Camera vandalism will not stop the Ulez operating London-wide.”
The expansion has become a deeply political issue, being criticised by the Prime Minister, MPs and being blamed for Labour’s failure to win the Uxbridge and South Ruislip parliamentary by-election last month.
But Mr Khan has insisted at the election next year he will be judged on his record over a range of areas, including affordable housing provision and his decision to provide free lunches in all primary schools. When asked whether the anti-pollution policy may cost him his bid for a third term at City Hall, he said: “My job over the next few months is to campaign on my track record.
“Whether it’s the free school meals that will start from next week, whether it’s cleaning up the air in our city, whether it’s the record number of mentors in our city, the record amount of investment in our policing, record numbers of affordable homes, record numbers of council homes. An election is fought on a number of issues — it’s not a referendum.”
Mr Khan added that yesterday was “landmark day” for the capital and insisted that a silent majority of Londoners support the Ulez expansion.