Fight against bike thieves in Cambridge stepping up
A fightback against the scourge of bike theft in Cambridge has been launched after the city was confirmed as the worst in the UK for the crime.
A new taskforce has been established to deal with the problem, which is said to cost the city £1.5million a year – and is also linked to serious organised crime.
Cambridge cycling charity Camcycle, Cambridge City Council and Cambridgeshire police have joined forces and this week launched a Save Our Cycles campaign, which the Cambridge Independent is supporting.
It comes after Office for National Statistics figures showed the rate of reported thefts per 1,000 people in Cambridge was 18.25 for the year ending September 2020.
This was more than five times the average from similar areas of 3.61 – and was also well above the average of 4.13 for Cambridgeshire as a whole.
Despite reductions during the first lockdown last year, rates of bike theft began to rise again towards the end of the summer last year. There were 631 bike thefts reported between April 2020 and March 2021, according to data gathered by police.uk, and another 38 bikes reported stolen in Cambridge city centre in March this year. In the past three years, 2,448 bikes have been reported stolen from the city centre.
The new campaign is calling on cyclists to make sure they ‘lock it and log it’. It encourages owners to register their bikes to help combat the crime.
Camcycle executive director Roxanne De Beaux said: “After many frustrating years campaigning for action on cycle theft, I can say that I am now seeing the most positive action yet. We hope to see a massive increase in the number of cycles registered as the public gets on board with the Save our Cycles campaign.”
Cambridge is the cycle theft capital of the UK, with stolen bikes the most reported crime in the city – and Camcycle says there are clear indications that many people never report that their cycle has been stolen.
The top bike theft hotspots in the city are Cambridge railway station and the nearby square, as well as Guildhall Street.
Roxanne continued: “While recording and registering frame numbers will make a huge difference to tackling the issue of cycle theft, it is just one piece of the puzzle. We also need to see significant improvements in cycle parking infrastructure and security.
“Too many facilities are easily tampered with by thieves, despite individuals making every possible effort to keep their cycles secure. Many developers and facilities managers need to do better on this front and the council must hold them accountable for meeting their responsibilities.
“We also need to see improved CCTV coverage of cycle parking locations and responsive reactions from operators and the police to ensure this footage is reviewed.”
Over the coming weeks, the Cambridge Independent will be highlighting some of the ways we can keep our bicycles safer.
In the first instance, cyclists across the region are asked to register their cycle’s frame number online with BikeRegister.com and are urged to lock their cycles securely, helping to combat two of the issues that contribute to high rates of cycle theft.
Widespread voluntary registration along with detailed and accurate descriptions of each cycle can help police to reconnect stolen property with its owner.
Camcycle will be collaborating with employers, universities and schools, including Greater Anglia, the University of Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin University, and the business community through Cambridge Ahead on a number of initiatives to ensure as many people as possible get involved.
Bike shops will be distributing leaflets to help customers find and record their frame numbers and the national cycle database Bike Register will keep track of the number of cycles registered during the campaign.
The campaign will also provide other advice, including how to lock a bike securely, what to do if your bike is stolen, how to ensure you do not buy a stolen bike and what to look for in secure cycle parking.
Inspector Ed McNeill said: “One of the biggest blockers to the prosecution of offenders is not being able to positively identify a bike as being stolen. We’re grateful for Camcycle’s efforts with the Save our Cycles campaign as we expect that increased registrations of bike frame numbers will allow us to apprehend more offenders.”
City council leader Cllr Lewis Herbert added: “Cycle theft accounts for the biggest proportion of crimes in Cambridge, and is far more devastating for those who lose their bikes than others realise, particularly the major cost of replacement bikes to young people and people on low incomes.
“We will look to increase and improve existing secured cycle parking, but we need all cyclists playing their part and taking far greater precautions. Lock your bike to a stand or secure fixture and log it too, particularly as no one will ever find your bike if you don’t register it, and do it now! Otherwise, sooner or later, it’s likely to disappear forever.”
Police and crime commissioner Darryl Preston said: “While our officers are working hard to arrest those responsible, bike theft can be a devastating issue for local people. I encourage all cyclists to ‘log it and lock it’ and keep their property safe.”
During his recent election campaign, the former police officer, who worked in Cambridge, said: “I am well aware of the motivations to steal bikes. Some may be opportunists, but most is organised criminality often carried out to fuel the drugs trade with ‘handlers’ making significant ill-gotten gains.”
Omar Terywall, the creator of the Stolen Bikes in Cambridge Facebook Group, said: “I’m pleased to say that we have managed to retrieve a large number of bikes since setting up the Facebook page. However, there would be more success stories if people were just aware of their serial/frame numbers – and had them registered on Bike Register.
“We have had an overwhelming number of instances where we, or the victims, have identified stolen bikes by distinctive markings or features – but have failed to recover them because we didn’t have sufficient evidence for the police to act. In each case, sellers claim they have purchased the bikes innocently after checking Bike Register.
“Despite the victims being able to point out all distinctive features, the sellers have refused to hand the bike back because the owner didn’t have it registered and/or couldn’t provide hard evidence ie confirm the serial/frame number. There is no lock that a determined bike thief can’t break. Registering their bike’s frame/serial number on bikeregister is, in my opinion, the most important thing that any bike owner could do.”
Printed posters and leaflets can be ordered from Camcycle and digital assets are available on the website at camcycle.org.uk/cycletheft.
Register your cycle with frame number and description at bikeregister.com or visit your local bike shop for help.