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Police cycle theft lead announces roll out of UK-wide strategy – initial focus on hotspots – as part of serious and organised crime division

Police are set to roll out a national programme to tackle cycle theft as part of a serious organised crime division, road.cc has learned.

The announcement follows the closure of a London-specific cycle theft taskforce, run by the British Transport Police, and police in charge hope that by sharing information and tactics across different forces police can target cycle theft hotspots across the UK, as well as catching bike thieves involved in more serious crime. 

National police chiefs reveal cycle theft hot spots for England and Wales as top cop vows to "stop the scourge of cycle crime"

The national police lead for cycle theft, Supt Mark Cleland, says he will begin by providing training to 23 ‘regional experts’ in the British Transport Police, and ‘anyone who wants it’, to tackle cycle crime. He says the cycle theft is currently seen as a high value, low risk crime, with a small chance of being caught, and he wants to change that. 

Supt Cleland said: “We expect to see pockets of cycle crime, and because we’re looking at a national programme of activity… we could be quite clever and focus our attentions where there are high levels of cycle crime.”

Analysis of cycle theft hotspots nationwide, produced by police crime analyst, Hannah Herbert, revealed the ‘top ten’ cities where the most bikes are stolen, as well as the time of year, and the types of location bikes are stolen from, like universities and transport hubs. Cleland notes cycle thieves are often involved in more serious crime, so catching people pinching bikes can be an easy way for police to prevent other, higher level, offences. 

At an All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group meeting, Cleland said: “The Metropolitan Police [beat] is our number one hotspot; as a result we’ve formed a regional force with the City of London police, the Metropolitan Police, working with Will Norman [London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner] to look at the issues surrounding cycle crime because there are links with cycle crime to street robberies, county lines crimes, and drugs and violent crime.”

Cleland said British Transport Police’s London cycle theft unit has been re-formed as part of Operation Opal, a new national unit focusing on serious organised and acquisitive crime. 

Police bike theft unit disbanded: “…feeling is public do not care if their bikes get stolen”

Cleland said: “That’s the real challenge for us, getting it across the whole of the UK.”
Cycle campaigners highlight the need to tackle the sale of stolen bikes, including on second hand sales websites like Gumtree and Ebay, and working with shops to register bike frame numbers to a national database that police use, BikeRegister. Secure bike parking, educating owners on bike locking, and registering their bikes, can help reduce cycle crime.

Cleland says: “There is a black market in stolen bikes. If it becomes so difficult to sell a stolen bike because there’s all those checks, and police attention, it kills the market in stolen property, and that’s the angle we’re trying to get.”

Sam Jones, Cycling UK’s Senior Campaigns and Communications Officer, said: “Cycle theft isn’t a victimless crime, but sometimes it feels like nothing is being done about it. There is a clear interest from some police, and the best way to get them to take it seriously is taking time to report your bike stolen. Even if the police can’t do anything about it, at least they know the scale of the problem. 
“We can also be responsible in our own purchasing; when you see that deal on Gumtree or Ebay, if it seems too good to be true it probably is. Always check to see if the original ownership papers are available before considering a purchase. 
“It’s not just your high-end road bikes being stolen. The loss of a bike could mean more than the end of a weekend hobby, it could prevent someone from getting to work, training or education; it is a serious crime that’s stopping more people from cycling.”
Research shows 24% of people who have a bike stolen stop cycling.