This article was published in 1999, in Newsletter 23.
Local consultation following the Crime and Disorder Act suggests that cycle theft is being taken very seriously indeed in Cambridge, but enforcement of traffic law is not seen as a priority.
This new act places a duty upon the police and local authorities to carry out a local audit of crime and disorder, consult local organisations and individuals for their views on local priorities, and then formulate a shared crime reduction strategy. The Police Authority, Probation Committee and Health Authority also participated.
The local consultation process
For Cambridgeshire, there were separate consultation processes for each district council. Each document stressed the importance of partnership working, gave an overview of current levels of crime and disorder in the district covered, and listed emerging priority areas.
Of the four initially available, only Huntingdonshire included driver behaviour – speeding, dangerous driving, drink-driving.
Cycle theft was included in the Cambridge City list, as it is the City’s most commonly recorded offence. The City Council distributed their questionnaire in one of the free papers. When we noticed this, we sent a copy to Campaign members within the City. Thank you to all who expressed their views.
We sent responses to the City and to South Cambridgeshire, and asked for our general comments to be passed on to the other three districts.
Road traffic law, speeding and general driver behaviour
We were very disappointed that this issue was not included in either of the local consultation documents we responded to. We said it should be the number one priority area in the local Crime and Disorder Audits, because more people commit, and suffer from, these crimes and offences on a daily basis than any other listed in the consultation document. Astonishingly, almost 1 person in 2 will be hospitalised as a result of a road crash in the course of their life.
We drew on the experience of drink-driving campaigns and legislation to make suggestions for tackling the issue. We also asked for greater emphasis to be placed on enforcing motor vehicle parking restrictions, especially where offences cause a hazard to others, or limit the effectiveness of public transport:
We were pleased that this was included as a potential priority for Cambridge. However, we were worried that the Audit placed all the onus upon cyclists to avoid having bikes stolen, and didn’t give any impression that criminals would actually be caught.
We said that the scale of the current cycle theft problem (22% of all crime in Cambridge City in 1997) was so great that a bold approach would be required to make a real impact. We offered numerous suggestions.
What happens next?
Local Crime Reduction Strategies must be published by 1 April this year. They will identify local priority areas, from which multi-agency groups will be set up to identify strategies to tackle individual issues. We have heard that it is unlikely that driver crime will be included in the Cambridge City report, though there’s little doubt that cycle theft will be included.
In three years, the process will be repeated. We hope that council departments (including road safety), the health authority, and the police will join us next time in pressing for driver behaviour to be included. In the meantime, our hopes rest with national initiatives, such as the national review of speed policy.
One thing’s for sure, though. We have every reason to expect a serious drop in cycle theft in Cambridge.
Anatomy of cycle parking
Officers at Parkside are already promoting an alternative brand of cycle parking – the Grippa – to try to reduce levels of cycle theft in the City. The manufacturers say that Grippas offer improved security. We have been told that they are rather complex, and can be subject to vandalism. There is already a single Grippa stand in Cambridge, at Madingley Road Park and Ride. On the one hand, we are aware of the national popularity of Sheffield stands, which are simple, cheap and easy to use. On the other hand, we don’t want to seem churlish, and discourage potential improvements. After consulting a number of cycle-parking experts and council officers around the country, our view is that we would be happy to trial alternative parking. But we must reiterate our request for the bulk of new cycle parking to be Sheffield stands, please.
Cycle theft statistics
In researching our Crime and Disorder response, I discovered a pleasing trend.
Cambridgeshire theft of pedal cycles 1995-1996 1996-1997 1997-1998 Detected 436 441 606 Reported 7,414 6,448 6,197 % Detected 5.9% 6.8% 9.8%
All three sets cover the same area. ‘Detected’ means ‘someone has been charged with the offence’, not necessarily convicted. Because of this, bikes which are returned by someone other than the offender are not included in detection statistics.
I doubt we’ll ever truly understand these trends, but if cycle theft is to be tackled, we will need to understand at least some of the factors, to ensure that actions are effective and well-targeted.