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Police ‘review all bicycle thefts but are focused on prevention’

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Cambridgeshire police insist they review all cases of bike theft in the Cambridge region, despite concerns from residents.

Bicycle. (13449153)
Bicycle. (13449153)

Latest police figures reveal that bike thefts in the city have fallen in the first half of the year and are on course to show a reduction for a third year in succession.

In 2017, there were 2,749 bike thefts reported but that fell to 2,668 last year and, in the first half of the current 12-month period, police have been notified about 1,418 incidents.

The force insists it reviews all cases of bike theft but admits that a decision on investigating them depends on the evidence available. Crime prevention is now the main weapon.

Supt James Sutherland, head of crime prevention, 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. 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.

“Our response to cycle crime is therefore to emphasise a crime prevention approach.

“Firstly, far too many bikes in the city are secured with cheap poor quality locks and about 25 per cent of stolen bikes are not locked at all. Cheap locks offer a false sense of security and very little actual protection against all but the most incompetent or drunk cycle thieves.

“Cambridgeshire police has recently launched a cycle marking service that provides free registration to Immobilise combined with an ultra-tough anti-tamper proof security label. This combined service, which would cost in the region of £15 to £20 if bought commercially but we are able to provide it for free for residents through working directly with manufacturers and Immobilise.

“Since the start of this project one month ago we have already marked and registered in the region of 500 bikes and our target is to reach 10,000 Cambridge city cyclists.”

Cambridge resident Tim Seymour believes that the lack of investigation is allowing an increase in bike theft.

He said: “I left my elderly, but much-loved, bike in the station cycle park last Saturday, went to London for the weekend, returning to collect it two days later. A thief had tried to steal the bike by picking it up and twisting it to break the sturdy bike lock.

“The lock held, but the bike was ruined – frame and seat post irreparably bent and buckled. I took the bike to a nearby bike shop, and they confirmed my diagnosis. They also told me that cyclists came into their shop with similar tales of woe just about every day. They added that if I reported the incident to the police, they would not be able to pursue it because they are over-stretched.

“What’s more, the video cameras would not/could not be used unless one could specify the time of the theft, or attempted theft, within a window of about two hours – very difficult for most cyclists, like me, going to London.

“I did report the attempted bike theft to the police, and that is exactly what happened. The cycle park is an excellent facility and would be so much better if it was more secure.”

 Find your nearest outlet for cycle-marking by calling police on 101. Businesses and shops can join the network by contacting Kate.Thwaites@cambs.pnn.police.uk.

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