Victims of bike theft in Cambridge call for more action
Victims of bike theft across the city have spoken out after a Cambridge Independent investigation found that more than 95 per cent of cases were closed without any suspects being identified.
We spoke with people who have lost their only form of transport, who have had bikes stolen multiple times and say not enough is being done to catch the thieves responsible or get their bike back.
There were 726 stolen bicycles reported to police in the city in the first six months of this year – and it is thought many more such thefts have gone unreported.
Of those, the case was closed on 694 without a suspect being identified by officers. In 20 cases, there was insufficient evidence for police to prosecute, while nine are under investigation and three are awaiting court outcomes.
Last Friday, however, Derek Lundgreen, of Hills Road, Cambridge, was sentenced to 28 weeks in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of bike theft, attempted bike theft and possession of cannabis at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court.
A police spokesperson said: “We take reports of bike theft seriously and would encourage people to report offences so we can build up a picture and deploy resources accordingly.
“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 enquiry 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 .”
Former prison officer Sally Brame, who lives in Cambridge, has had two bikes stolen.
She said: “Criminals have been given free rein to do as they like. They can steal these bikes and put them on resale sites and sell them because no-one is going to come after them unless you have vigilantes who will do it.
“There is this whole campaign to get people to cycle more in Cambridge. Well, I don’t want to any more, because I’m loathe to leave my bike anywhere. People say you should have a decent lock on it but it doesn’t matter what lock you put on if they are going to cut it off with an angle grinder. If they can’t get the lock off they just grind through whatever it is locked to.
“I have tried asking the police what proactive action they are taking to prevent or solve bike crime and you just don’t get an answer.
“I’ve had two bikes stolen in a year. My second bike was stolen at Cambridge North station. I had gone to see friends in Luxembourg and had left it for three or four nights. I didn’t think it would be an issue because I put three D locks on it and I locked it to my friend’s bike as well as the railing. But the thief just came along with an angle grinder and ground off all three of the locks.
“I could see straight away as I was walking up to where I had left my bike and I knew it was gone. I was frantically looking for it. I saw my friend’s bike not attached to anything all – the locks had gone. My friend’s bike had chips out of the paintwork where sparks had flown. You just feel sick and angry when it happens.
“The train station wants you to park your bike and use public transport. But I can’t leave it there because it is not secure. After the last train has gone, who is up there dealing with security?
“There is CCTV at the train station but because I couldn’t give them a time when it happened they wouldn’t look at it. They said they needed a four-hour timeframe to go through the images. But if you are going to work or away for the weekend you won’t be back in four hours. So they refused to trawl through the CCTV and the police closed the case.”
Sally then spotted her stolen bike, which was worth £550, for sale on Gumtree, the selling site, so she contacted the police in the hope the thief could be caught.
She said: “I emailed the officer and was told not to contact the seller. I was happy with that as I thought the police would now go and catch them and get my bike back. But a couple of weeks later I found out my case had been given to someone who went on holiday the next day. All the time I had thought someone was looking into my case he was on annual leave. I was hugely disappointed.
“They basically told me not to do anything when I saw my bike on sale but on the other hand they told me they are not going to do anything either. So, what does that tell a criminal?”
Meanwhile, administrator Sophia Kopanou, who lives in Cambridge, has had two e-bikes stolen, which she needs due to mobility issues.
She said: “I can’t ride a normal bike because of my arthritis, but I don’t have a car and so I need my e-bike to get to work and do my shopping. But I’ve had two stolen in the past year, which has had a huge financial impact on me
“They were both worth about £600 and weren’t insured because I couldn’t afford it. One was taken from outside the front of my house, where it was locked up. It had only been left there for a couple of hours and was taken in broad daylight.
“Then in June this year someone broke the gate in my back garden to get to my e-bike that was locked up. I felt very vulnerable after the break-in but even though I called the police they didn’t come out to see me. I felt sure there would be fingerprints, but when I finally got through the automated police phone system to speak to an officer they told me I had to go and report it online.
“I was shocked that no-one came out to investigate the crime considering the thief had broken into my property.
“Now I have had to buy a third e-bike but I keep it inside my house and even lock it up inside the living room. I’m buying it on a Bike to Work scheme. I have the most expensive lock possible but every time I have to leave it locked in town I’m worried it will be stolen. It seems like nobody cares about these crimes. I keep thinking what more could I have done to keep my bikes safe? But I should be able to lock my bike and find it still there when I get back – that’s not unreasonable.”
Roxanne de Beaux, executive director of CamCycle , the Cambridge cycling campaign organisation, told us: “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. 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 2018 study found that Cambridge had by far the highest number of bike thefts by population with 18 thefts per 100,000 people. Oxford came in second with 12 per 100,000.
CamCycle says conservative estimates place the cost of bike theft at well over £1.5million each year in Cambridgeshire alone.
My bike was stolen in five minutes
Kevin Woolston, 34, a former bakery assistant who lives in Cambridge, is another bike theft victim.
He said: “I’ve had two bikes stolen, one from Burleigh Street and one from outside Tesco in Newmarket Road.
“At Tesco, I literally went in for just five minutes and when I came back the bike was gone. I think the thief must have been watching me as I locked up the bike – I’d used a really expensive Kryptonite lock but that’s not going to stop someone with an angle grinder.
“I asked Tesco for the CCTV but apparently it wasn’t working at the time and when I reported both of the thefts to the police, they just gave me a crime number and that’s the last I heard from them.
“People are clearly just nicking bikes and selling them on. I saw my first bike being ridden by someone around the back of The Grafton centre and I called the police to say they were there and it was definitely my bike. They just said there was nothing they could do. I wouldn’t even bother ringing the police next time I got a bike stolen.
“The bike taken from outside Tesco was one I was paying for on a Bike to Work scheme. I had just finished making the payments but I didn’t have insurance on it as the lock was expensive enough. So I couldn’t make a claim for it.
“Now I just have a big chain and a padlock with an alarm on it. I hope that is a deterrent because if you even touch it the alarm goes off. But I’m always really nervous using my bike and have been put off cycling into town because of the thefts.”
Read more from our coverage of bike theft - and see this week's Cambridge Independent (September 9-15 edition) for advice on keeping your bike safe