Why bike thieves should be very afraid

3 officers riding on road Until now bike thieves have had it fairly good. Not only do they have a big pool of potential targets, many of them badly secured, but they also have a big audience to sell to. Thanks to websites such as eBay and Gumtree they can reach out and make big profits from expensive bikes. While thieves were busy getting rich, cyclists were out of pocket and the police were taking a back foot in stopping the onslaught.

Today this is set to change. A new 30 strong police force will now be guarding London’s bikes. They will be tackling both bike theft as well as vandalism.

As you will have guessed from reading this blog, I’m rarely a negative person. Therefore, my response to this news was to rejoice! My friend on the other hand, who likes to provide me with the negative viewpoint, pointed out that 30 people for the whole of London is hardly enough. But I’ll explain why he is wrong.

By tackling the organised side of the crime and catching a few of the key players you will see a major reduction in bike thefts. As long as these people are properly sentenced. The new team will be using methods such as police stings and covert operations that are likely to target these key players.

There will also be a renewed, and likely much more successful, effort to target thieves selling bikes on websites such as Gumtree and eBay. This will involve working with the websites to make it harder for people to list bikes without their full details and also targeting sellers. By removing the thieves access to a large audience you make it far more difficult for them to sell their stolen bikes.

Steve Burton, TfL’s Director of Community Safety, Enforcement and Policing, said:

“London’s a great place to get around on a bike, but the experience of having your bicycle stolen or damaged, or the fear that it will happen, stops many people from cycling – which makes us even more determined to crack down on cycle theft in the Capital.

The new Cycle Task Force policing team will be dedicated to cracking down on bike thieves but will also work with Londoners to show them the steps they can take, such as ensuring they lock their bicycles securely, to help prevent themselves from becoming victims of theft or vandalism.”

While this is very good news for the capital and for encouraging more cyclists I recommend that for now you buy yourself a good lock such as the Kryptonite and know how to lock your bike correctly.

Hopefully one day we will be able to secure our bikes with one lock and know for certain it will be there when we return. This police force seems like a very good step in the right direction to achieving this.

See also:

  1. How to lock your bike
  2. Bicycle insurance
  3. Kryptonite New York 300 review
  4. Abus Granit Steel O Flex review

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

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11 Responses to Why bike thieves should be very afraid

  1. Ben Brown 07/06/2010 at 12:21 pm #

    I’m excited by the sting operation idea. I’ve noticed a decrease in bike thefts in the Vauxhall area recently where I park my bike daily. A community officer asked me a questionairre about bike theft there recently, I like to think they are patrolling the area more often. I sent an email full of ideas to the local police chief and specifically mentioned my annoyance that they don’t use decoy bikes and undercover operations to catch the kind of thieves who use vans and pick up several bikes over a weekend. Hopefully they will start doing this and have some success. It just seems to me that there is so much bike theft around the Southbank area that a couple of steakouts would be bound to bear some fruit.

    • Andreas 07/06/2010 at 4:24 pm #

      It seems to me that this is the kind of bike theft that can be solved. I’ve got high hopes for this new team and hopefully I can meet them at some point to discuss a bit more about what they are doing (without giving too much away to bike thieves!)

  2. Andrew 07/06/2010 at 5:04 pm #

    Andreas, I completely agree with you. This is great news. I’ve had several bikes stolen around london and never felt the police had the resources/focus to prioritise stolen bikes. It’s good to see this changing and I hope that I can leave one of my two massive locks at home in the near future…

    • Andreas 17/06/2010 at 3:10 pm #

      Andrew, let’s hope it is a positive change for London and perhaps something that can be rolled out to the rest of the UK

  3. Dave Holladay 09/06/2010 at 11:37 pm #

    Bike reselling is a cash business and like a lot of petty crime it often links back to a bigger operation which needs soft and difficult to nail down operations that can launder the proceeds of more serious criminal activity. Cash takings from selling an undefined supply chain can soak up other ill-gotten gains. Thus by getting control of bike crime the Police are delivering in a much bigger game plan by cutting off this route to cash laundering.

    Interesting that in a recently enhanced station cycle park, the BT Police managed to feel the collars of a new group operating in their manor. Only one person was tooled up – and set to be the fall guy – he went around pre-releasing bikes and moving on – so that the bike removal would be carried out by those without any incriminating equipment, and he would not be caught with tools and bikes.

    The big risk, just as it was 40 years ago when I lived next to the SWT rail network is when bikes are regularly parked in the same places for the same times – effectively a chop and carry warehouse, where a catalogue may well be available of bikes which are stolen to order. There is a certain naievete of many institutions (and rail operators) that open and unmanaged bike racks are realistic security for long term regular users.

    Likewise the regular users might consider the value of being certain that their bike remains in on piece and one place for their return and paying an appropriate amount for that peace of mind.

    In Central London a bike saves around £500/year on purchase of Central Zones travel, so paying say £1 per day for a genuine secure parking facility would seem to be around the right market value. Combine other factors and a typical rail commuter can be cutting up to an hour each way from the misery of travelling to work and saving up to £2000/year on direct costs for car parking and tube fares

    Until the mindsets change and proper secure parking is provided and used by cyclists who are prepared to pay if they want a genuine level of security the efforts of patrols will have only temporary or localised impact. Parking providers – understand your customers – cyclists be prepared to pay if you want a real service.

    • Andreas 17/06/2010 at 3:11 pm #

      Thanks for the insight and it’s true what you say about more widely available secure bike parking – I can see people wanting to pay this if it is a good price.

  4. Alix 17/06/2010 at 11:44 am #

    That’s great, and I hope it works, but what happens to the bike thieves when they’re nicked? This is from the Evening Standard on 14 June:


    Six-month suspended sentences for two of what the Standard describes as “members of one of London’s most notorious bike theft gangs”.

    Will we see bike thefts in the City go up again now?

    • Andreas 17/06/2010 at 3:09 pm #

      That is the problem Alix – without proper conviction and getting this guys to serve some serious time I can’t see the problem going away – I can just see them getting smarter.

  5. Ben Brown 17/06/2010 at 3:14 pm #

    That is annoying about them being released already

    some interesting stuff on the bike show about locks and locking

  6. Bike owner 22/06/2010 at 3:37 pm #

    My husband has lost a bike and a back wheel parked in the basement of our building ( a2dominion Housing association property) in the last month. We reported these two cases to the Hounslow Police.

    Today I got a phone call from the police telling me they can not be bothered to go and check the CCTV footage with the housing association, as the bike and the wheel are not worth the time they spend and effort they put in. I am shocked!

    So there we are, 3 bikes stolen from the same building and nobody from the Police or A2dominion give a shit about it.

  7. Douglas Schwab 11/11/2012 at 5:23 pm #

    All the advice about licks and security is a myth to me. Hiring “Boris Bikes” makes more sense. Having the freedom of using one’s own bicycle to ride where and when one likes has become prohibitively expensive. Having my £50 bike with £80 of locks taken adds up quickly over time.

    I had my bicycle stolen in Camden several months ago. Someone put a u-lock on where I had Gold Standard u-locked it to railings on the pavement.

    When I phoned the police they claimed they could do nothing, I had to get a locksmith. When I returned with the locksmith “who gets calls for this all the time” my bicycle was gone.

    Boris bikes solve lots of issues with cycling in London. Add the cost of stolen bicycles (not my first heavily locked bicycle stolen in London!) to narrow roads and cycle transport needs alternatives.

    Hiring a Boris Bike is cheaper than being a victim of (inevitable) theft for the Capital’s idealist cycle users.

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