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Interactive Cambridge bike theft map 2020: How 95% of cases end with no suspect identified

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No suspect was identified for more than 95 per cent of bicycle thefts in Cambridge in the first half of this year, a Cambridge Independent investigation has shown.

Our interactive map plots every reported bike theft in the city from January 1 to June 30, and details the location of the crime and the outcome of the case.

You can click on one of the bike symbols to see the detail. The colour-coding indicates how bicycle crime has fluctuated from month to month. Click the button top left to toggle months on or off, or see a full list of roads affected.

There were 726 bike thefts reported in the first six months of the year.

And for the vast majority - 694 of them - the case was closed by Cambridgeshire police with no suspect identified.

In 20 cases, police were unable to prosecute offenders. This means they may have identified a potential suspect but lacked sufficient evidence to proceed.

Nine remain under investigation and three are awaiting court outcomes, according to information available at data.police.uk.

Many more bicycle thefts go unreported, of course, as victims are not hopeful of getting their property back. One 2016 study by Stolen-bikes.co.uk suggested that as many as 71 per cent of cycle thefts may go unreported.

Police encourage every victim to report a theft, however.

The map also gives some indication of some of the locations most often targeted by bicycle thieves, with streets across the city centre showing as particular hotspots.

Cycling campaigners are calling for much more to be done to crack down on the problem.

Roxanne De Beaux, executive director of Camcycle, said: “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.”

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’.

Bike thieves can cut through even thick chains (41440370)
Bike thieves can cut through even thick chains (41440370)

“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.”

The spokesperson pointed out that figures indicate there has been a substantial decline in thefts this year – down 55 per cent from May to August across Cambridgeshire, compared to the same period last year.

In Cambridge, thefts fell 49 per cent in April-July 2020 (587 cases) compared to April-July 2019 (1,157), and while 232 bike thefts were reported in the city in July, that was down 28 per cent on the 324 reported in July 2019.

However, the figures are clearly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the reduced numbers of people visiting the city in recent months.

April - when the country was in lockdown - brought the least number of reported bicycle thefts so far this year, with 62.

Last year, Supt James Sutherland, head of crime prevention, told the Cambridge Independent that crime prevention was key in the fight against bicycle theft and acknowledged the challenges of bringing bike thieves to justice.

He said: “All reports of cycle theft are reviewed by our investigations management unit. Where there are significant lines of inquiry that would likely lead to an arrest being made or property recovered, the crime will be allocated to a local officer for further investigation. However, it is true to say that in the majority of cases there will not be viable lines of inquiry.

Superintendent James Sutherland, the area commander. Picture: Keith Heppell
Superintendent James Sutherland, the area commander. Picture: Keith Heppell

“We know from experience that the possible presence of CCTV very rarely leads to the offence actually being captured on video and even in those rare cases, identification of a suspect is incredibly rare (due to counter measures taken by thieves to disguise their appearance to cameras).

“Compounding this problem is that the timeframes where bikes are stolen are usually several hours, which makes viewing CCTV by police officers a very costly and unproductive use of police resources – even utilising methods such as a ‘binary chop’ fails to take into account the time required to obtain and view the CCTV.”

Look out for more soon in our coverage of bike crime, which is also discussed in detail in this week’s issue of the Cambridge Independent.

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