So some of you may remember, Last month Simon posted a news story that was regarding the police tackling bike crime in Cambridge, as you may see in the comments below the article, I had mixed views on the "success" of the operation, So after a little digging and thanks to the link posted by user timlennon, I decided to fill up a Freedom of Information Request (FOI)....Link to the story.


After no success with my first FOI, I was pointed in the direction of the office who made hold the information I was looking for

>> First request http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/operation_northwood

So today i received a response from the Cambridgeshire Constabulary, dealing with my request for information on man hours and cost of the operation, unfortunately they do not keep record of the man hours, but did give me the figure that the operation had cost, being £136,564.52

>> Second request http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/operation_northwood_2


We have completed all searches within Cambridgeshire Constabulary and
hereby enclose your response.


1. Unfortunately, we have been unable to locate any information to satisfy
your request, as we do not hold this information. This is due to the fact
we do not record the amount of man hours.

2. Total cost for Operation Northwood to date £136,564.52.

So as I said in the final comment on the story page

Gkam84 wrote:

I'm not against using the money this way Alan and i have filed a FOI request to find out how many man hours and the cost of the operation was.

I think its a good idea in principle, but would just like to see the cost/conviction rate, i'll take it on the 62 reported and that cost against that of the 724 bikes difference

At the moment 724/62 is around 11.67 bikes per conviction

If i was to work it out against the 20 people locked up, it would be higher, so i'll stick to the 62, there is obviously the cost to the courts for how ever many of the 62 were processed through the court system and then the 20 who have been locked up, there is the price for having them in jails and detention centres, but i wont bother trying to factor that in.

Finding out the price and man hours is purely for my own views, but i will share it when i find out, if its not hugely excessive, i'd like to see it rolled out/trailed in other parts of the country where bike crime is also high

So now we have a price to go by, here are my findings (non-scientific) and purely for my own views on the subject, but everyone is welcome to comment, just dont get nasty with it.

The cost of the operation being £136,564.52 I said i would work it out per conviction but I'm also going to work it out per bike as the numbers listed had a drop of 724 bikes reported stolen

So 62 people convicted works out around £22,027 per conviction, which in my eyes is slightly high, thats around a average person's wage per person caught

724 bikes reported drop, working out at around £1,886 per bike.

So as I said, I'll welcome comments on this, but my view is, thats not really value "for money policing" once you also factor in court time and costs, also the costs for the people who were imprisoned for their crimes.

As a one of operation, it does show however that if this were to be rolled out nationally and done in the right way, there could be a dramatic drop in the number of bikes stolen every year.

If rolled out nationally, I could see the cost of these operation falling as other areas took it up. Even if it just ran for a set period of time, the cost per operation would actually be worth while as the people convicted may be put of stealing bikes in the future and therefore saving the police, insurance companies and other organizations the costs incurred dealing with the crime.

As a one of operation though, I see it having little impact of the general issue of bike crime.


notfastenough [3729 posts] 6 years ago

Interesting info, thanks for taking the time to find this stuff out. I do think that enforcement costs £££ by definition, generally because those being 'enforced against' (bike thieves, in this instance) are rather opposed to the idea, and will do whatever they can to prevent it.

As much as it would be easy to say that it would be cheaper to give all the victims a £1k bike as a replacement, that would of course be daft. I think this isn't so much the cost of policing as the cost of crime. I think the sentencing guidelines have a lot to answer for here - what's the point of spending £22k per conviction only to end up with a slap on the wrist? Perhaps stiffer penalties would reduce the frequency of the thefts.

Gkam84 [9119 posts] 6 years ago

Its a catch 22 really, Yes we'd all love stiffer penalties, but they would ultimately increase prison numbers and those who would be put on probation. Therefore also increasing costs.

There is no one solution to cut it out all together as there will always be crime of one sort or another, but anything to dis-way potential bike thieves should be looked upon as a good thing. If this was a national campaign I would back it tomorrow, but as its just in one certain area, to me, it does not merit the cost.

Mr Will [91 posts] 6 years ago

You are missing one important point:

The year-long Operation Northwood was set up to fight burglary, vehicle and bike crime in Cambridge

The costs for the bike-specific parts of it will only have been a percentage of the total.

Gkam84 [9119 posts] 6 years ago

Yes Mr Will, it was to fight all that, but from all the documentation i can find, they set up a bike shop that was a front for the operation and caught them that way.

I think the quote you have put above, is a bike misleading as you took off the end part


The year-long Operation Northwood was set up to fight burglary, vehicle and bike crime in Cambridge, with police setting up a shop, Wardy’s Wheels, as a front to entice criminals to seek to dispose of stolen property there.

All the stories i can find about the operation are to do with the Wardy's Wheels, I think the reason its also to fight burglary and vehicle's is because these people convicted were also involved in that side of things, so by tackling the stolen property being offloaded through the bike shop, they were also able to tackle those other sorts of crimes

Here are a few stories about it





This is the only information i can find outside of bike crime, which leads me to believe that vehicle crime was fought under another operation


Operation Northwood saw undercover officers
infiltrate the city’s black market and resulted in 20
offenders being locked up for a total of more than 47
Officers also recovered more than 500 items of stolen
property, identifying 218 which were then returned to
the rightful owners.  
A gang which made thousands of pounds stealing
from cars across the region was jailed after detectives
launched a surveillance operation. Four men received
custodial sentences and another a suspended
sentence after being caught red‐handed in Operation
The operation led to a significant drop in vehicle crime
across south Cambridgeshire.