Four men who were part of a gang that used social media sites such as Facebook to target cyclists and who stole bikes worth more than £35,000 have been jailed at Grimsby Crown Court.
The gang targeted 14 separate premises, with one owner facing a bill of £21,000 to replace stolen bikes and repair their garage, reports the Grimsby Telegraph.
Three other members of the gang received suspended prison sentences. Six of the seven, all from Grimsby, admitted conspiracy to burgle, while one pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods. Most also faced drugs-related charges.
The longest sentence, five years and six months in jail, was handed down to Robert Daniels, 24, after he admitted conspiracy to burgle and being concerned in the supply of cannabis.
Jason Gladding, aged 26, was jailed for three years and six months after pleading guilty to supply Class A drugs and handling stolen property.
Robert Gladding, 24, and Luke Lond, 27, each admitted conspiracy to burgle and a cannabis conspiracy. They received respective prison terms of two years, six months and two years, 10 months.
Jordan Howard, aged 20, and Grant Sharp, 19, both admitted conspiracy to burgle and were handed two-year jail sentences suspended for two years and were ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work.
Nathan Green, 25, who pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of cannabis, was given a six month prison sentence suspended for 18 months and told to perform 150 hours of unpaid work.
Lincolnshire Police analysed their phone records including texts sent between them and matched the locations the burglaries took place with data from their mobile phone providers,
Officers working on Lincolnshire Police’s Operation Impact arrested Daniels and Howard at a property in Immingham on 1 February, and subsequent searches led to the discovery of stolen bikes and motorcycles.
Gordon Stables, prosecuting, told the court that properties would be targeted for a number of months with the gang also using the sales site Gumtree to identify where high-value bikes were kept.
They used bolt-croppers to gain access to garages and sheds and in some cases also removed roofing tiles from outbuildings to gain access, he said.
Drugs and cash were found at the homes of some of the defendants – in the case of Daniels, officers found £2.395 concealed in his girlfriend’s bra.
In recent years, a number of police forces across the country have warned that thieves are targeting owners of high-end bikes through social media to identify where they are kept. Here’s what you can do to stay safe.
road.cc’s online security tips
We’re all for online communities here at road.cc – after all, we are one and the interaction between our own users is one of the things that makes the site what it is – but as the story above shows, there may be people watching who have intentions that go beyond taking exception with your opinion of helmets or Rapha and who’ll give you more than the odd flame to worry about. Here’s some pointers to keeping safe online, with an emphasis on bike security.
If you mainly post online under a pseudonym and never mention your real name in connection with that, you’re already a step ahead. If not, there are a few things you can do to make yourself more secure, both when it comes to your bike and generally.
• Since Facebook accounts tend to be under users’ real names, it’s not difficult for thieves to link that and other information to publicly available address information, so you may want to review your privacy settings to have control over who can see your profile (yes, we know Facebook keeps changing them, but try and keep on top).
• Be very careful about posting images online. We all like to post pictures of our new toys online, but a bit of common sense is needed. A photo of your brand new bike with your house clearly identifiable behind it could attract unwanted attention. You may wish to disable GPS information used by some photo sharing sites.
• The same goes for information you share on sites that track your rides and make the information public. Strava has a feature that enables you to hide the start and finish point of your ride, particularly useful if that happens to be your home. Use it.
• Don’t go into detail online about the specific type of security you have, whether in relation to your bike or your home generally; you’re giving the thieves a chance to prepare by making sure they have the right tools for the job. Likewise talking online about going away for a while, on holiday perhaps, can flag up an unoccupied house to the thieves .
• Even if you don’t post on social media under your real name, be wary about how much information you make public. The less you reveal, the less others know about who you are and where you live. Keep it vague – town or district, fine, the street you live on, think twice.
• It's not just Facebook and Twitter, either that you need to be careful about - as the story above shows, even club websites can be trawled by the crooks for information. Site admins may want to consider a private area of the site where members can chat.
• This isn’t specifically online-related, but we know that cyclists are sometimes followed home, the thieves returning later once they know where you live. If, close to your house, there’s somewhere you can go on your bike that someone watching you in a car can’t, go there. Try and vary your route if you can. Or ride a little way past your house then loop back.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.