Bike Theft - Keep your bike safe!
Many people around the UK rely heavily on bicycles for transport, especially in larger towns and cities. But according to police statistics, approximately 96,200 bikes were stolen during the course of 2018, meaning that as many as one in 50 homes where a bike is regularly used for transport suffered from cycle theft, with figures remaining steady every year.
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And yet, cycle theft continues to be viewed as no more than a minor criminal act, despite the devastation losing a bike to thieves can have on an individual or their family.
The national police lead on cycle theft, Superintendent Mark Cleland, the national police lead on cycle theft in the UK, has revealed that a national cycle crime strategy is about to be launched in an effort to combat cycle theft across the country. Hotspots for bike theft have been pinpointed throughout England and Wales, and the London-based cycle crime unit will be dispersed, with training to be made available to 23 officers in more localised cycle crime teams.
“We are working hard to stem the rise of violent crime, and to strike the right balance between what’s causing that harm and risk, but also what impacts on commuters and other victims of crime,” Superintendent Cleland explained
“That doesn’t mean our focus on cycle crime has stopped. Instead of having that central expertise in London, it means there’s more skills to tackle the problem locally.”
The need for more drastic action is evident, too. Statistically, the most common victims of bike theft are between 16 and 35 years-of-age and earning well below £10,000 per year while living in urban areas often considered to be anti-social. And according to a survey conducted by Bike Register, at least half of the theft victims felt let down by police investigations, with just 3% of stolen bikes ever
recovered. In fact, police are usually only informed of one in every five bike thefts as victims feel there is little the authorities can do to retrieve their possession.
Southampton, Cambridge, Oxford, Portsmouth, Hull, Central London, Leicester, Bristol, Bournemouth, Middlesbrough and Reading have all been identified as hot spots for cycle theft, with most incidents happening in proximity to the bike owner’s home, or in university campuses and transport hubs around the country.
The police have committed themselves to improving enforcement in regard to bike theft and have stepped up efforts to refine safety procedures at bike racks. They are also encouraging owners to register their bike serial number with the retailers from whom they purchase them in order to make recovery more feasible.
“It’s not just about policing,” Superintendent Cleland added. “It’s about how we problem solve. That means working with people like Bike Register and train operating companies to design theft out.”
He went on to highlight the fact that no law currently exists around the sale of second-hand bikes, which makes it even easier for thieves to sell them on or strip them for parts which can be expensive in their own right. Police are, however, attempting to work in partnership with selling websites like Ebay and Gumtree to locate stolen bikes that thieves are attempting to move on.
A case was recently brought to light in which an individual managed to locate his stolen bike and the culprit was apprehended by police, but the victim was forced to enter the civil courts to retrieve it because the final sale was made in good faith.
“If this had been a car, a diamond ring or high-value item of jewellery would this have happened?” asked Sam Jones of Cycling UK. “I think not – but because it’s a bike, hands are washed, and the victim is left adrift from justice.
“With behaviour like this, it’s no wonder many people don’t bother contacting the police when their bike is stolen, and consequently give up cycling.”
Superintendent Cleland, however, refuted the suggestion that police don’t prioritise bike theft.
“We have some really good results for cycle thieves, we arrest a lot of people,” he said. “We don’t ignore it. It is a crime, and if there’s an opportunity to arrest someone, we will.
“There’s an organised element. People steal bikes to get money or to go and commit crimes, people steal bikes to sell to buy drugs.”