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Bike shop owner slams police’s “abject apathy” after three shops and private residence broken into in one night during bike theft spree

“It seems like it’s spreading from one shop to the next. It’s like an epidemic,” said the owner of a shop where the thieves were thwarted by a neighbour

A cycle shop owner has criticised the police’s “abject apathy” towards bike theft after thieves attempted to break into his store for the second time in a year, on the same night two other bike shops and a private dwelling were targeted by a gang of criminals.

On Saturday night, at least 17 bikes and other items were stolen during the series of raids which took place across Sussex.

At the Giant store in Shoreham, six men in balaclavas were spotted by local residents – who took videos of the burglary – breaking into the shop and stealing 14 high-end e-mountain bikes.

The private home of Martin Gibbs, a service manager for supplier Upgrade Bikes, was also burgled, with the thieves making off with, among other things, two Kinesis bikes and a Canyon gravel bike.

Bike stolen during Sussex raids (Martin Gibbs)
Canyon bike stolen during Sussex raids (Martin Gibbs)

Cycleshack in Lewes was also targeted, though it is currently unclear if any bikes were taken.

The thieves were thwarted, however, while trying to access South Downs Bikes, when a neighbour disturbed them interfering with the shop’s front door lock, causing them to scarper in a black BMW.

The failed Saturday raid is the second time in a year that South Downs Bikes has been the subject of a break-in, after three e-bikes were taken when a thief broke the shop’s office window with a brick.

> Brazen bike thieves foiled in dramatic pursuit after nicking Bromptons from front of store and threatening to knife chasing shop manager

And after none of the perpetrators were found in the wake of the first burglary, the Storrington shop’s director, Martin Richardson, isn’t convinced of Sussex Police’s ability to deal with what he refers to as a bike shop break-in “epidemic”.

 “It seems like it’s spreading from one shop to the next. It’s like an epidemic,” Richardson tells road.cc.

“We had a break-in about 12 months ago. A guy chucked a brick through the office window and stole three e-bikes. They put them in their van and realised that the bikes from an earlier break-in weren’t of the same quality as ours, so they dumped the seven bikes in one of our neighbours’ gardens!”

> Bike shop targeted in "lawless" raid attempt, major damage as car rammed into building twice

Referring to Saturday’s spate of break-ins, the South Downs Bikes director said: “I was speaking to the manager of the Giant shop in Shoreham, and residents took videos of these six guys in balaclavas, entering and exiting the shop with multiple e-bikes.

“We were able to capture an image of the one of the individuals who drove up in a black BMW and disabled the CCTV at the front of the shop externally. And we watched him on the CCTV take a little tool out of his pocket and get the lock off the door in a matter of 30 seconds!

“I was called by the tenant of the flat above our shop to say that another neighbour had disturbed two people attempting to enter the premises. Once challenged they speedily drove off in their shiny BMW. I then attended the shop to see the external CCTV camera had been removed from the wall.”

Following the break-in, Richardson posted a photo of one of the balaclava-sporting criminals on Facebook, complete with the caption: “Customers need to check our opening hours unlike this person at 21.38 hours yesterday”.

Thief attempts to break into South Downs Bikes shop (South Downs Bikes)

However, despite receiving the support of the local cycling community, Richardson says the subsequent police response has been somewhat “lukewarm”.

“When we were broken into last time, the police officers eventually turned up and said ‘right, we’ve made a note of this, we’ll send you a crime number by email, and that’s the last you’ll see of us’. And we never heard anything whatsoever. They don’t give a damn, do they?” he tells road.cc.

“This time, I’ve only been talking to the Sussex Police by email. The response, as usual, is lukewarm. I obviously contacted them initially on their 101 and have now received the perfunctory crime number relating to the attempted break-in.

“I get the impression that provided you get a crime number and contact your insurance company, that’s the end of the matter as far as our wonderful police force is concerned. That’s why we securitise ourselves in such a way, because the police aren’t going to do anything. Abject apathy comes to mind.

“But what happens next is our premiums go up by at least 20 per cent for the next year, so you’re a victim in more ways than one here, that’s the problem.

“I have no faith in the police anymore, and a lot of bike shop owners I talk to say the same.”

> Warning that bike theft has been "decriminalised" as stats show 89% of reported cases unsolved

Richardson’s pessimism echoes that of Reading-based AW Cycles shop manager Dave, who told road.cc in March that the knowledge that bike theft is “so under-investigated” by police prompted him to chase after a pair of brazen young thieves who attempted to steal two Bromptons from the front of his shop, with Dave and a colleague managing to retrieve the folding bikes – despite being threatened with a “knife” by one of the thieves – within a minute of them leaving the store.

The shocking, if somewhat clumsy, daylight robbery attempt took place in March, just seconds after staff had placed one of the Bromptons close to the shop’s entrance.

Brazen bike thieves foiled in dramatic pursuit after nicking Bromptons from front of store and threatening to knife chasing shop manager (AW Cycles)

However, the hooded teenagers were soon thwarted by Dave and another staff member, who quickly caught them, wrestling back the bikes in the process. Despite one of the thieves threatening to “knife” Dave on multiple occasions if he didn’t hand back the Brompton, before eventually “legging” it, the shop’s CCTV footage then shows the staff members arriving back at the shop just 60 seconds after the bikes had initially been taken.

“The sad fact is bike theft is so under-investigated by the police,” Dave told road.cc at the time. “If the bikes had been nicked, maybe they’d do more, but because we got the property back, we’ll be at the bottom of the queue.

“I’ve heard that Bedfordshire Police are not even investigating bike crime anymore because they don’t have the resources for it. Which is why I thought ‘if I let these bikes go, I’m never getting them back’. So the instinct was to chase them.

“The silver lining is that it brought the community together. But unfortunately, my Bromptons are now locked up at the front of the shop.”

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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7 comments

Avatar
Rome73 | 1 month ago
1 like

The last time I had an attempted burglary at my house - the targets were the e-bikes, it didn't even cross my mind to contact the Police. Only reading this article has made me think - are you meant to contact the Police when you are burgled? I'm not being sarcastic, accusatory or blaming - I just didn't think burglary was a matter for the Police. (Unless there was violence) 
I contacted the insurance company. 

Avatar
Mr Anderson replied to Rome73 | 1 month ago
7 likes

You should always report crime, even if you expect nothing to happen.  Because this adds to the statistics, and statistics drive targets, and targets drive resources.

It is the same for personal injury cyclist collisions.  Highways Engineers won't commit spending on improving the roads, unless there are significant PI collisions reported.

Did you know you can self report a traffic collision on GOV dot UK?

Avatar
Carior replied to Rome73 | 1 month ago
4 likes

Was the first question your insurance company asked now "please can we have a crime reference number?"

Burglary is a crime - crimes should be report - end of!

Avatar
bruxia | 1 month ago
5 likes

Coincidentally there's an article in the ft about burglaries today.

 Only 3.6% of burglaries get a conviction, down from 6.6% in 2015.

Police cuts. In unrelated news there's an election soon.

https://www.ft.com/content/b2e60482-7172-481e-a15a-c4c483b02cc1

 

Avatar
open_roads replied to bruxia | 1 month ago
4 likes

There are no "cuts" - there's an all time record number of warranted officers.

What's lacking is police leaders who actually see policing as part of their core job. When the police announce to shoplifters that they will be safe from prosecution  unless they steal more than £200 per offence it just encourages theft.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to open_roads | 1 month ago
6 likes

Not the important stat - that would be per head of population. And in fact IIRC we are also down numerically on trained road police (and crash investigators - that might be even longer term?)

https://fullfact.org/crime/police-officer-uplift-numbers/

Numbers have increased very recently but AFAIK still not proportionally greater than before.

I think you'd notice if you had an all-time record amount of cake but then had to share it with others (leading to fewer slices for you), no?

Avatar
mdavidford replied to chrisonabike | 1 month ago
6 likes

Plus some of that cake isn't available to be eaten because it's stuck in cake box doing admin that used to be done by 'wasteful bureaucrats' who were got rid of.

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