Police deployed bait bikes and even set up bike shop to take stolen goods off thieves' hands...

Bike thieves in Cambridge got more than they bargained for when they visited a shop to try and sell on the bicycles they had stolen, with 20 miscreants ending up behind bars as they were caught in a sting operation run by Cambridgeshire Police.

The initiative formed part of a police campaign to reduce soaring levels of bike nd other property crime in the university city in recent years, and in terms of the number of bikes reported stolen in 2011 must be viewed as a success, with 2,146 thefts recorded during the year.

Not only is that a 25 per cent reduction on the 2,870 reported bicycle thefts in 2010, it’s also below the level recorded in 2007, according to figures published by the website Cambridge News following a Freedom of Information request.

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.

The operation also included police deploying bait bikes fitted with GPS trackers to enable officers to trace criminals.

Referring to the fall in bike crime, Sergeant Mike Barnshaw, of the city centre policing team, commented: “This reduction is good news, but we’re not complacent and will continue to tackle those who steal cycles.

“Cambridge has long been associated with a cycling culture which is traditionally focused on the central Market ward,” he continued.

“Since my team was introduced we have identified offenders and detected an increasing number of thefts through concerted efforts and the use of a range of tactics, including ‘trap bikes’ and targeting those that sell on bikes for cash or exchange them for other goods.”

In all, 62 people were convicted in connection with the operation, many of those operating in gangs, including 20-year-old Andrew Dailley from Romsey, known as ‘Fat Boy’ to police, who was described as the leader of one such outfit.

Earlier this month Dailley, who was said to spend £40 a day on cocaine and £20 a day on vodka, was sentenced to four years and eight months in a young offenders’ institution.

Passing sentence at Cambridge Crown Court, Judge Gareth Hawkesworth told him: “As well as being a stubborn young man, you are also a very stupid young man.

“You are no stranger to the courts and you have been part of a string of thefts.”

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.