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Operation being studied by forces elsewhere in the UK

Police in Hammersmith are deploying bait bikes to try and snare bicycle thieves, it has been revealed, and claim that the initiative is working, with more than 20 arrests made so far.

According to the Evening Standard, 20 decoy bikes, fitted with tracking chips that are activated once they are moved, are being used in a six-month trial in the West London suburb, and nearly all of them have been stolen, with one lasting just nine minutes before it was taken.

The initiative has also helped police piece together the way in which the stolen bike trade operates. Typically, the thieves are teenagers, who sell the bikes on to handlers for just £20 or £30 each, well below their true value.

The handlers then seek to dispose of the bikes via websites such as Gumtree or eBay, although both of those have been working with the London Cycling Campaign in recent months to try and halt the trade in stolen bicycles under its Beat The Thief campaign.

However, the police operation has also discovered that some bikes stolen in London are being taken as for away as the former Soviet Union to be sold. As an example, one bike taken in Hammersmith was taken to a house in Ealing, which police raided the following day and discovered it loaded onto a van, ready to be taken to Ukraine.

Two men, both Ukrainian nationals, admitted that they regularly took bikes that had been stolen in London to their native country, but they escaped with a caution.

Another bike stolen in Hammersmith was traced to an address in Luton, where officers found a further 13 bicycles that had been stolen, but officers say that the bikes are passed on to the handlers so quickly that it makes it difficult to catch the actual thieves. Instead, it is handlers who have been arrested for the most part, with one receiving a fine of £1,000 for handling stolen goods.

However, the claim that the initiative is working, with the average number of reported bicycle thefts in Hammersmith falling by almost a third from 23 to 15 since the scheme was implemented, and the initiative could be rolled out elsewhere in London, while forces in other parts of the UK are also studying it with interest.

Inspector Tony Hirst, of the Hammersmith Safer Neighbourhood Team, told the Standard: “Pedal cycle theft appears to have become the crime of choice for many low-end criminals because of the quick reward and low risk of being caught. We hope to put the fear back into the criminal.”

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.