Police in Edinburgh have charged a man with selling 28 stolen bikes on the website Gumtree after the owner of one of the bicycles spotted it and alerted officers, who enlisted the site owners' help to track the culprit down. The news coincides with the Scottish capital being revealed as one of the Britain’s bike theft hotspots in a survey by the insurer Aviva.
According to a report in The Scotsman, police have now charged a man in his 20s for theft and PC Keith Young of Gayfield police station said: "The person who saw his stolen bike on Gumtree was looking for his property as he knew so many bikes are sold on it.
“We have contacts at Gumtree and were able to trace the seller. His information showed the victim's bike was put up for sale online the same day it was stolen.
"We found the seller had offered a total of 50 different bikes for sale and we were able to identify 28 as having being stolen.
"The bikes were worth anything between £100 and £1500, but one was worth £4000. However, the seller was offering them for much less than their true value."
PC Young added: "Sites like Gumtree and eBay are becoming more popular ways to sell on stolen property. We would encourage people to check the sites for their own property, and also to ensure that they report any thefts to police so we have the details."
The issue of thieves using Gumtree and online auction site eBay to dispose of stolen bikes was also highlighted earlier this year by the London Cycling Campaign, which has been working with the websites to try and address the problem as part of its Beat The Thief campaign.
Ian Maxwell of Spokes, the Lothian cycling campaign group, agreed that advice from the police to look for stolen bikes online was “very sensible," adding: "The sale of second hand bikes has always been slightly risky and online sales only make that more so. Sites like Gumtree can be a ready market for stolen bikes and anything we can do to discourage thefts and make cyclist safer is welcomed."
A spokesman for Gumtree told the Scotsman: "We regularly work with the police to help convict those that use the internet in this way."
Meanwhile, insurer Aviva has revealed that according to a survey of 2,000 cyclists, Sheffield topped a list of 28 towns and cities in the UK as being the worst for bike crime, with Edinburgh and Norwich in second place.
The survey formed part of its Aviva Cycle Security Project, which we touched on yesterday, when five bikes were left either unlocked or poorly secured in London to see how long it would take thieves to make off with them.
Cambridge, often considered the bike crime capital of Britain, came in 22nd in the rankings, which were based on the percentage of cyclists who said they had been a victim of cycle thieves during the past five years.
Some 46% of cyclists in Sheffield had suffered that fate, as did 44% in both Edinburgh and Norwich. They were followed by Gloucester at 41%, Liverpool and Oxford, both at 39%, then London on 38%, Birmingham and Swansea both at 37% and Wolverhampton in 10th place at 35%.
Obviously when it comes to bike crime, it's difficult to to come up with a definitive picture, not least because official statistics only count reported bike theft and don't include bicycles taken as part of a house break-in for instance.
Using a five year timeframe does however give a longer term view, although with a couple of caveats. First, cities where there has been a successful crackdown on thieves over the past couple of years may not see that reflected in their ranking, and there could also be differences with this survey and official figures which o.
Secondly, in the case of Cambrdge, the city's transient student population - many of whom use bikes to get around of course - could also be a factor, with many moving on elsewhere at the end of their degrees which could skew the figures lower than they are in reality.
What is clear, though, is that bike theft remains a serious problem and that advice to lock your bike up properly with a decent lock - or better still, two locks of different types - is as valid as ever.
As for Edinburgh, the Scotsman reported that recent figures have confirmed that bike theft in the city is indeed on the rise, with an average of five bicycles a day reported stolen in the city in the year to March 2010, an 18% increase on the preceding 12-month period.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.