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'Laptop bag' left as security - but thieves made off with dozens of high value bikes...

Two men in London have been jailed for a total of four years and three months after admitting being involved in the theft of 23 bicycles with a total value of approximately £61,000.

The convictions follow a long-running investigation, led by the Metropolitan Police Service’s Roads and Transport Policing Command, in partnership with eight other forces, into thefts between October 2013 and February 2014.

Tariq Hasi, 24,of Cambridge Grove, W6 and Issa Najjar, 26, of Aisgill Avenue, W14 pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal and were sentenced on Monday, 16 November at Isleworth Crown Court.

Hasi was sentenced to two years imprisonment and Najjar was sentenced to two years and three months in prison.

The thieves had a pattern of behaviour; the victim advertised their bicycle for sale on the internet and was contacted by a prospective buyer and a meeting arranged. At the meeting, Hasi or Najjar would ask to take the bike for a test ride, leaving behind a laptop bag. They would then cycle off, stealing the bicycle and when the victims checked the laptop bag, they found it contained old books.

The men were arrested on 3 March 2014 by West Midlands Police after being stopped in a van containing two high-value cycle frames and cycle parts. These were later identified as being stolen from victims selling them in Hertfordshire and Surrey on 8 and 27 February 2014 respectively.

Officers from West Midlands Police contacted the Roads and Transport Policing Command Proactive Unit, who have a team of experienced officers specialising in investigating cycle theft. They identified 17 cases in London and a further nine cases in surrounding areas where Hasi and Najjar had used this method to steal bicycles.

They were charged with conspiracy to steal on 10 December 2014 and were bailed to appear at Hammersmith Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, 6 January.

Detective Chief Inspector John Oldham, of the Roads and Transport Policing Command, said: “These men were organised criminals who were involved in a large scale conspiracy to steal bicycles from people selling them online.

"We are determined to bring cycle thieves to justice and by disrupting large-scale criminal activity like this, we can continue to reduce cycle theft across London."

Steve Burton, TfL’s Director of Enforcement and On-Street Enforcement, said: “Tackling cycle theft plays an important part in achieving the Mayor’s ambition to get more people cycling. With the number of people cycling in London continuing to rise, we encourage everyone with a bike to take advantage of the free bike registering events held across the Capital by the police and when locking up your two wheels our advice is to use at least one gold secure lock.

“We, alongside our policing partners, are committed to improving cycle security in the Capital and will push for the toughest penalties possible for those caught stealing.”

Back in February 2014 we reported the story of the theft of a Trek time trial bike taken by a thief who masqueraded as a potential buyer.

The owner had advertised the bike on a couple of second-hand sites, so when a man turned up at his house on February 8 claiming to be interested in buying it, it all seemed on the level.

In his ads, the owner said he had spent £6,200 on the 2011 Trek Project One Speed Concept bike and only raced it “a couple of times.” He said he was selling it because “I have a new addition to the family and I can't see myself doing any triathlons anytime soon.”

The offender asked to test the bike and gave the victim a laptop bag, which the victim assumed had a laptop inside. The offender then cycled off down Letchmore Road in the direction of Walkern Road. He didn’t return and after a short while the victim checked the bag, which he found contained books.

The offender was described as a man of ‘Mediterranean’ appearance, in his late 20s to early 30s who was around 6ft 1/2in tall with short dark hair and stubble. He was wearing a grey beanie hat, rectangular narrow glasses, a long grey tweed over coat and brown corduroy trousers.

It is not known whether Hasi and Najjar were behind the theft.

A road.cc reader also alerted us to the case of a man from Marston Moretaine who had advertised a carbon fibre Cube bike for sale on Gumtree site and was contacted by a prospective buyer who made an appointment to view the bike on Wednesday, January 8, according to the police report (link is external).

When the buyer turned up on Wednesday evening at about 8.20pm, he was very knowledgeable about racing bikes and seemed credible and trustworthy. However, he asked to test the bike out in the cul de sac where the seller lives and then when the seller’s back was turned to shut his van door, the thief simply hopped on the bike and rode off at speed.

In this case, the thief also left a laptop bag as 'security'. That bag also turned out to just contain books, and had been recently bought from an Oxfam shop.

Safe selling

When you want to sell a bike, it’s easy to be too trusting. Even bike shops sometimes fall prey to convincing conmen who leave dodgy ‘security’ while they go for test rides.

Here are our tips for safe selling:

  •     Don’t put your address in the ad or tell it to a possible buyer. Letting someone know where you live, and therefore where there’s an expensive bike, could mean a 2am visit from a man with a crowbar and bolt croppers.
  •     Ask lots of relevant details, like how tall they are. Someone claiming to be 6ft but interested in a 51cm women-specific bike for himself is unlikely to be genuine.
  •     Get their full name and phone number. If they’re hesitant about giving that information, that’s another reason to be wary.
  •     Arrange to meet possible buyers on public, neutral ground. Partly for the same reasons as the first point, and also so that the situation is too public for them to mug you for the bike.
  •     If they want a test ride get solid security. There have been instances of thieves leaving bike shops (link is external) with car keys that have turned out to be bogus (link is external). Ask for photo ID such as a driving licence or passport, or go for a ride with your potential buyer. Or get the asking price of the bike in cash.

 

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.