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Hammersmith police deploy bait bikes to catch the thieves

Operation being studied by forces elsewhere in the UK

Police in Hammersmith are deploying bait bikes to try and snare bicycle thieves, it has been revealed, and claim that the initiative is working, with more than 20 arrests made so far.

According to the Evening Standard, 20 decoy bikes, fitted with tracking chips that are activated once they are moved, are being used in a six-month trial in the West London suburb, and nearly all of them have been stolen, with one lasting just nine minutes before it was taken.

The initiative has also helped police piece together the way in which the stolen bike trade operates. Typically, the thieves are teenagers, who sell the bikes on to handlers for just £20 or £30 each, well below their true value.

The handlers then seek to dispose of the bikes via websites such as Gumtree or eBay, although both of those have been working with the London Cycling Campaign in recent months to try and halt the trade in stolen bicycles under its Beat The Thief campaign.

However, the police operation has also discovered that some bikes stolen in London are being taken as for away as the former Soviet Union to be sold. As an example, one bike taken in Hammersmith was taken to a house in Ealing, which police raided the following day and discovered it loaded onto a van, ready to be taken to Ukraine.

Two men, both Ukrainian nationals, admitted that they regularly took bikes that had been stolen in London to their native country, but they escaped with a caution.

Another bike stolen in Hammersmith was traced to an address in Luton, where officers found a further 13 bicycles that had been stolen, but officers say that the bikes are passed on to the handlers so quickly that it makes it difficult to catch the actual thieves. Instead, it is handlers who have been arrested for the most part, with one receiving a fine of £1,000 for handling stolen goods.

However, the claim that the initiative is working, with the average number of reported bicycle thefts in Hammersmith falling by almost a third from 23 to 15 since the scheme was implemented, and the initiative could be rolled out elsewhere in London, while forces in other parts of the UK are also studying it with interest.

Inspector Tony Hirst, of the Hammersmith Safer Neighbourhood Team, told the Standard: “Pedal cycle theft appears to have become the crime of choice for many low-end criminals because of the quick reward and low risk of being caught. We hope to put the fear back into the criminal.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Fish_n_Chips | 13 years ago

What they should do is pack dynamite in the tubes and when the tea-leaf pinches the bike, press the remote detonator!

Problem solved and money saved.

David French | 13 years ago

So with all the recent cuts in police spending, you'd think that the police would be forced to persue convictions once a criminal is found to ensure value for money from the investigation?

Better still, I suggest that once we have recovered our troops from Iraq and Afganistan we send them to the Ukrane to fetch our ****ing bikes back!

Benskii | 13 years ago

Fining cyclists for going through red lights?? What about arresting the car, taxi and bus drivers that skip red lights every 2 seconds. Cyclists aren't the problem! I wonder how many people actually report their bike stolen - not many. That number of 15 bikes stolen is probably more like 1500 in the Hammersmith area alone.

jova54 | 13 years ago

Quote "Two men, both Ukrainian nationals, admitted that they regularly took bikes that had been stolen in London to their native country, but they escaped with a caution."

[Daily Mail]

If they have stolen goods in their possesion and they admit to regularly shipping stolen goods to a foreign country, perhaps they should have let them take their van back to Ukraine and marked their passports 'No re-entry to the United Kingdom'. They are not EU citizens and therefore have no right of abode.[/Daily Mail]

Feel better now that's done.

msw | 13 years ago

I think the point is that the *haven't* been caught stealing them or admitted doing it. I imagine it's very hard to prove that the handlers didn't buy the bikes in good faith.

And let's not focus on the atypical-but-newsworthy Ukrainian case eh? Because, y'know, that's exactly what the Daily Mail would do. From the story it seems like the norm is for the bike to be nicked and sold by local "handlers" via eBay or Gumtree.

DirtyLyle | 13 years ago

"average number of reported bicycle thefts in Hammersmith falling by almost a third from 23 to 15"
What, a day?

jazzdude | 13 years ago

@workhard That's exactly what I was thinking. Go to all the trouble to bait bikes and track them and then let the thieves off with a warning even though they've admitted steeling many more bikes!!! What's the point? Maybe someone should start a charity to donate bikes to the Ukraine, It would save the police the effort of bothering in the first place then they could concentrate on more important things like fining cyclists for riding through red lights.

workhard | 13 years ago

Nicking bikes, well, it's not really stealing is it?

Have the Met declared an amnesty on Ukrainians then? A great idea, wrecked by the piss poor follow up. If I go around London stealing bikes, put them in a Luton van, and then when stopped by the plod simply declare that I'm en-route to my home town to sell them, and this is a regular run, will I get let off with a caution? FFS!

Makes me want to read the Daily Mail to get a sense of proper perspective.

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