Setting a trap for the Mr Bigs of bike theft

People don’t realize is that it isn’t a bunch of kids nicking the odd bike, this is very smart gang a stealing on a mass scale, which is organized crime, reveals PC Rob Johnston.

Despite appearances, Johnston is hard at work. He has set bait for the would-be thieves, a posh commuter cycle secured with a less than robust lock.

Bike Theft is booming. The British Crime Survey estimates that 540,000 cycles were stolen across the UK last year, up from 444,000 the year before. “One of them was my GT, which is why I’m particularly keen to see a thief get nabbed today. I know it’s wrong, but I want revenge.” Says PC Johnston.

There are six plainclothes officers dotted about the area, which sounds over the top until you realise that thieves sometimes come mob-handed, or with back-up in vans.

The growth in bicycle theft has been rampant and it is not hard to see why. There are a huge number of targets, which are often badly secured and are worth a decent sum of money. Life continues to be easy for the bicycle thief once the bike has been liberated from its owner. Courtesy of the internet, a bike can now be sold to a wide audience on websites such as Gumtree and eBay. Furthermore, this area has not generally been a priority for the police. It’s is almost enough to make you quit your day job and grab some bolt cutters.

These days it is impossible to imagine ever leaving home without two bike locks. The correct locking technique, involving two different style locks around both wheels, is as drilled into cyclists as looking before crossing the road. You can’t help but question the effectiveness of lugging around these two heavy bike locks when you watch videos on YouTube and hear stories of people breaking into £100 locks like they are stealing candy from a baby. Salvation however, may be on the horizon.

The London Cycling Campaign (LCC) has been campaigning with their new “Beat the thief” message and are calling upon the government to set up a specialist bike-theft police squad. For once their prayers have been answered in the form of a new Police Cycle Task Force funded by Transport for London.

The 30-strong team will be responsible for targeting organised bike crime in London. This will be done through undercover operations and working with websites such as Gumtree to make it harder for people to sell bikes that don’t belong to them. The hope is that targeting the key players will drastically reduce the level of bike crime in London.

Efforts are also been put into creating a central database of marked bicycles in London. This will help police and retailers identify and verify the legitimate owner of bikes that have been stolen and are being sold.

This is the more interesting side of the announcement. The less interesting bit is that the team will also be raising awareness of cycle theft by working with organisations such as the LCC, providing bike marking sessions and handing out advice on how to lock your bike. Hardly groundbreaking since most cyclists are I imagine aware of the problem.

Let’s hope the taskforce will make the bike theft profession far less desirable. Maybe one day cyclists will be able to leave the house without carrying twice the weight of their bike in bike locks.

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