Cycle theft

This article was published in 2008, in Newsletter 76.

Laminated poster added to bike racks by the police.
Image as described adjacent

In the last newsletter Sgt Gordon Morgenthaler of Cambridge Police answered our questions about the ‘Immobilise’ website*. At the same time we asked him questions about some more general theft issues. Here are his answers.

Is cycle coding still being offered by the police at Parkside? If so, when can people use this, and is it still free?

We can code cycles at the Parkside cycle store, but when a cycle is checked in the street we cannot tell who owns it or if it is stolen. Immobilise (see Newsletter 75) tackles all these problems. It is quick, easy and simple to check.

Given the ‘cyclical’ nature of cycle theft, what is the typical difference between Sept/Oct thefts and those in Jan/Feb in recent years?

There has been a lot of research carried out by University College London into cycle crime. It is a growing national problem and there are no clear figures explaining why bikes are stolen.

There are those that steal a bike to get home, those that steal bikes to sell on for cash and then there are organised groups who steal large numbers of cycles possibly to ship abroad. September and October see the return of students to the city and cycle thefts increase for a few reasons.

  • Reports of stolen cycles that have been taken by the council/college as abandoned bikes.
  • A large number of new cycles owned by students who do not understand the volume of cycle thefts that happen in Cambridge and are therefore lax about cycle security.
  • An increase in the number of people in Cambridge looking for cycles ranging from new students to people who have had their bike stolen.
  • Criminal gangs planning ahead for Christmas. Good quality second hand bikes sold through eBay and other outlets or markets.
  • At other times cycles are stolen to sell for cash or drugs. They are easy to steal, they are hard to identify without the frame number.

Cycle theft will never be stopped while there is a huge shortage of cycle parking around Cambridge. Our photomap contains many pictures of bikes left against walls insecurely, with no formal cycle parking in sight (see examples) What are the police doing about this?

‘Fly’ parking is a problem and leads to more crime, from criminal damage to thefts. I am working with Colleges to encourage better facilities and correctly located racks. The council work closely with the Police to remove abandoned cycles and encourage the use of cycle racks through education.

Can the police object to planning applications where levels of cycle parking are inadequate?

The Police have an architectural officer to review and assess building plans and developments in order to provide planners, architects and developers with recommendations that reduce the risk of crime and disorder occurring. The recommendations form part of the application process.

What other work are the police doing to cut down on cycle theft at the moment?

The Police in Cambridge are determined to cut cycle crime.

We have improved the information contained in our website to educate those that cycle in Cambridge about the use of good quality locks, we visit students and colleges at every opportunity to promote crime prevention, we have distributed thousands of leaflets and cards encouraging cyclists to record their frame number, we carry out registration events in the city with immediate registration via our laptop computers, we work closely with cycle shops to promote security, we have given extra training to officers and Police staff to ensure that cycle crime is taken seriously and that the problem is investigated effectively.

Recent cycle crime blitz headlines

Officers are given daily briefings containing a cycle crime update. All officers are actively encouraged to gather intelligence on cycle crime, they carry out checks daily on cycles through Immobilise and our crime recording system. We are involved in ongoing work with British Transport Police and other forces to identify those that sell stolen cycles and to tackle this through hi-visibility patrols, dedicated plain clothed officers and directed operations including the checking of eBay. We are making an impact…

There are more arrests every day.

*An update:The last issue noted that there was a charge of £3.99 for the ability to upload digital photos of the bike being registered. This has now been changed and there is now no charge for this service.