Easy pickings for bike thieves in Cambridge have prompted the launch of a twin-action crime prevention strategy by local police and cycling campaigners.
Cambridge has the highest level of cycling in any town or city in the UK, and consequently pays the price in bike-related crime. Police say that in March 2009 there was a 64 per cent increase cycle theft compared to the same month last year. More than 220 bikes disappeared in March this year.
The police have joined forces with Cambridge City Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, Cycling City, Cambridge Cycling Campaign and CCTV operators to crack down on thieves and encourage cyclists to keep tabs on their machines.
Campaigners say that locking a bike to an immovable object with a high-quality lock will deter thieves. Cyclists should also register bikes with immobilise.com, a site that will enable stolen bikes to be returned if they are recovered by police.
Sgt Gordon Morgenthaler, of Cambridgeshire police, said: "We are working together to publicise the 'Lock it or Lose it' message. Prevention is the ultimate aim, but we also want people to register their bikes on immobilise.com
"During National Bike Week, which runs from June 13 to 21, there will be various events all over the country and we will be at locations around the city registering cycles and giving advice to the public.
"We will then be out and about throughout the summer promoting the campaign and registering cycles. I would urge cyclists to visit the website and register their bikes today. Don't wait until it is too late."
Liz Bisset, director of community services at Cambridge City Council, said: "We need the public's help to reduce bike crime.
"Locking your bike securely is such a simple thing to do and hugely reduces the likelihood of a bike being stolen.
"We want to get that message out loud and clear to all cyclists in the city."
The call comes following police reports that gangs from London were deliberately targeting Cambridge’s bicycles because of a more ‘easy-going’ attitude among students, especially at the start of the academic year. A city council committee said combating bike theft in Cambridge should remain a priority because it constituted a high percentage of crime figures.
Martin Beaumont, the council's CCTV manager, said: "New students don't necessarily understand the risks. It's an ideal time for the old boys from London to come down in their vans, stack up from the colleges and take them away."