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“Bike theft scourge will continue until there’s a genuine risk criminals might get caught,” warns Cycling UK, as police figures reveal only one in a hundred thefts lead to prosecution

Sussex Police have confirmed that, out of 2,273 reported bike thefts over the past year, only 23 resulted in a charge or court summons

Cycling UK has warned that the “scourge” of bike theft will continue until criminals “believe there is a genuine risk of getting caught”, after figures published by Sussex Police revealed that only one in a hundred reported thefts over the past year resulted in a prosecution or court summons.

According to Sussex Police’s stats, 2,273 bike thefts were reported to the force in the year up to March 2023 – with just 23 leading to a prosecution, the Argus reports.

In 92.3 percent of the cases, officers were also unable to identify a suspect, while a further four percent were dropped due to evidential difficulties.

Those figures in Sussex are broadly in line with the national picture, with crime data unearthed this year by the Liberal Democrats, which focused on England and Wales between July 2021 and June 2022, showing that 90 percent of bicycle thefts reported to the police were closed without a suspect even being identified, while just 1.7 percent of the reported thefts led to someone being charged.

> Almost 90% of bike thefts reported to police closed without suspect identified

Those alarming figures prompted Richmond Park MP Sarah Olney to accuse the Conservative government in June of “effectively decriminalising bike theft in our local communities”, while the Liberal Democrats’ Treasury spokesperson also called for a “return to proper community policing, making our streets safer and ending this free-for-all for criminals”.

However, despite Sussex Police’s figures faring even worse than the national average (in fact, the county topped the national charts when it came to police inaction over stolen bikes in 2021 and 2022), one of its Chief Inspectors has rejected the view that the police are apathetic towards bike theft, and urged the local community to keep reporting its stolen bikes.

“We understand how important bikes are to people in Sussex and we take all reports of bike theft extremely seriously,” Chief Inspector Dan Hiles said.

“While there is a low number of charges relating to theft of a pedal bike, the return of many stolen bikes are often recorded under other crimes – for example where an offender has been charged with burglary and stolen items, including bikes, are discovered in their possession.”

He continued: “We carry out a great deal of work with our partners in the community to tackle the root causes of crimes such as these and gather any available evidence to identify perpetrators.

“It is important victims continue to report any thefts to us as soon as possible and also take note of any identifiable features, such as serial numbers and distinctive marks, so that, should that property later be recovered, it can be returned to its rightful owner.”

> Richmond Park's Lib Dem MP blames Tory Government for “effectively decriminalising bike theft”

Nevertheless, Cycling UK’s campaigns manager Keir Gallagher has urged the police to do more to track down bike thieves, and to make them believe that “there is a genuine risk of being caught”.

He said: “While we acknowledge the limitations on police resources, with more than half of stolen bikes being sold online, there is clearly scope for improved targeting of online marketplaces to identify and prosecute serial offenders and organised criminals.”

According to the Liberal Democrats’ findings from earlier this year, of the almost 75,000 bikes reported stolen between July 2021 and June 2022, only 1,239 resulted in a charge or court summons, while 66,769 did not even see a suspect identified.

> “They drove a scooter on me”: Cyclist violently assaulted by four men who mugged his electric mountain bike on popular cycling route

In January, the Lib Dems’ home affairs spokesperson called the figures “shocking” and concluded that “if your bike gets stolen, there’s very little chance of ever seeing the thief caught and punished”.

“Local police forces are overstretched and underfunded,” Alistair Carmichael said. “They simply cannot do their jobs properly without the funding and officers needed to investigate crimes like this properly.

“The Conservatives talk tough on crime, but they cannot even get the basics right and are set to miss their own pledge to recruit 20,000 extra police officers by next March.”

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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8 comments

Avatar
Fignon's ghost | 8 months ago
1 like

I seriously doubt that 100:1 stat is correct. It's down to you to protect and to serve.

Avatar
BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 8 months ago
1 like

Of course bike theft is 'decriminalised'. But I am sure it's not unique to Sussex or even the Unicorn Kingdom for that matter. Probably nowhere in  Europe or North America is bike theft taken seriously. To be fair to the police it's an impossible crime to investigate. Prevention is the best course. 

Avatar
Fred49 replied to BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 8 months ago
7 likes

Its the same in France, even if you can locate your stolen bike you dont get any help. My son electric scooter was stolen, i was able to locate it in a outlet parking thanks to an airtag. But the police didnt care, i had to :

-send my son to buy a U lock

-put the lock on the scooter

-get back home to get a small 12V grinder

Then i could cut the thief U lock to get back the scooter.

Fun fact is many people passed by and no one asked any question while i was cutting the U lock.

Avatar
brooksby replied to Fred49 | 8 months ago
1 like

Ironic that the thief had chosen to lock the scooter up.  Clearly they didn't want someone stealing "their" scooter...

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Spangly Shiny replied to brooksby | 8 months ago
1 like

It could have been bought by someone unaware of it's origin, thus D locking it would seem perfectly natural.

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brooksby replied to Spangly Shiny | 8 months ago
1 like

I guess so, yes. Bought by someone who didn't care that the vendor had no paperwork, for a remarkably low price...

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Sriracha replied to brooksby | 8 months ago
0 likes

And of course bought without the original charger. Another house fire in the making. Then they ban ebikes on trains, etc.

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OldRidgeback replied to Fred49 | 8 months ago
0 likes

When the lock I use for my motorbike jammed I borrowed an angle grinder from a neighbour to cut it off. Sparks flew everywhere but nobody bothered to ask what I was doing.

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