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Camcycle: ‘It’s clear police are not taking Cambridge bike theft seriously enough’

Continuing our examination of the problem of bike theft in Cambridge , Roxanne de Beaux, executive director of Camcycle, the Cambridge Cycling Campaign, share her opinion of efforts to tackle the problem.

More than 95 per cent of reported bike thefts in Cambridge end with no suspect identified (41514649)
More than 95 per cent of reported bike thefts in Cambridge end with no suspect identified (41514649)

Cycle theft has been a frustrating and at times devastating issue in Cambridge for many years. We’re hearing stories of individuals and even entire families having multiple bikes stolen, replaced and then stolen again, sometimes several times.

Key workers have been stranded at night without any way to get home when they find their bike has disappeared, again. Even with insurance, it can become too costly to keep replacing bikes and after multiple thefts, insurance premiums can become more expensive than the bikes. There are many who eventually have to give up cycling altogether.

We support advice from the police for individuals to do what they can to keep their property safe. However, thieves are still making short work of expensive, top-quality and often multiple locks. How many locks must one purchase before the police are satisfied you have done your bit?

What good are the best locks if the cycle stand you attach them to can be easily ripped apart by thieves like those at the Cambridge Station Cyclepoint, which is managed by Greater Anglia?

Roxanne De Beaux, of Camcycle
Roxanne De Beaux, of Camcycle

We’ve met with Cambridgeshire police numerous times over the last decade and sat on several working groups intended to deal with cycle theft. But despite our efforts, we’ve yet to see the level of action required to properly tackle this issue. It is clear that cycle theft is not taken seriously by our local police.

We’ve also met numerous times with Greater Anglia, who have also failed to take any significant action to create a safe and secure environment at the station. They, and the police, have known since before the opening of the Cyclepoint that the stands installed were insecure. Calls back then for the security to be improved were dismissed as the CCTV would ensure the thieves were kept away.

We continue to collect a significant number of stories of people reporting the theft of a cycle and receiving, almost immediately, an automated reply from the police citing the case closed due to a ‘lack of evidence’.

Abandoned bikes have been marked for removal at CyclePoint, at Cambridge railway station. Picture: Keith Heppell
Abandoned bikes have been marked for removal at CyclePoint, at Cambridge railway station. Picture: Keith Heppell

It is clear that these reports are not being looked at to assess what evidence could be gathered. Many people have found their cycles, identified the thief, pointed out there is CCTV coverage and still cannot get a response from the police. The Stolen Bikes Facebook community is clearly identifying patterns that the police should be picking up.

Perhaps the reason cycle theft is not taken seriously is the perception of it being a ‘low-value’ and ‘low-impact’ crime. If you look at the estimated number of stolen bikes in Cambridge (including those that are not reported) the value of the property is huge.

Conservative estimates suggest this could be well over £1.5million each year in Cambridgeshire alone. Add to that the additional cost a person bears when their bike is stolen: the stress, the additional expenses, the taxi trips or bus fares and the loss of productivity as they cannot get to work on time or at all.

CyclePoint at Cambridge railway station. Picture: Keith Heppell
CyclePoint at Cambridge railway station. Picture: Keith Heppell

We also have to consider what the proceeds of cycle theft are being used for. Is this easy income stream being used to fund other criminal and anti-social activities that the police will also need to deal with?

The government is calling for more of us to take up cycling to improve our health and keep our nation functioning as we emerge from a pandemic with limitations on public transport. To do so we must feel safe and secure when we are cycling on the roads and when we are parking our cycles. Cycle theft is a crime and it is having a terrible impact on our community. It must be taken seriously.

We will continue to meet with the council, police and owners of cycle parking facilities to push for change. Hopefully, the conversation will start to change at last.

A response from Cambridgeshire police

A Cambridgeshire Constabulary spokesperson told the Cambridge Independent: “We have done a significant amount of crime prevention work to help people reduce their risk of becoming a victim of cycle theft, including holding a number of cycle marking events across the county.

“All cycle theft is recorded and assessed as to whether or not there is a proportionate line of inquiry to follow that may allow officers to solve the crime. All crime trends are reviewed and analysed to identify bike-theft ‘hotspots’.

“We urge cyclists to ensure their bike is secured with at least one decent lock, as well as being marked and registered to increase the chance of it being returned if it is stolen. More information is available on our website: cambs.police.uk/information-and-services/Cycle-crime.”

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