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Surge in bike thefts leaves York authorities scratching their heads

Five bikes a day now going missing; police advise cyclists to buy better locks

Council leaders and police in York admit to being ‘perplexed’ by a recent surge in bike thefts that’s led to five bikes being stolen in the city every day.

Cycling City York manager Graham Titchener told the York Press, “A lot of these thefts are opportunist – we are not talking about some organised crime wave here.”

Local police say cyclists need to take more care of their bikes. A spokesperson said: “From analysing reported incidents, the main area of concern is how users either leave cycles unlocked or use inadequate locks.

“The cycles are also left in inappropriate areas such as unlit streets, out of sight, around the corners of buildings or simply dumped on a pavement. These are all places criminals look for and know about.”

The figures show 820 bikes have been stolen so far this year with 161 stolen alone in July – equivalent to five a day.

Twice as many cycles were reported stolen at the University of York in July compared with the same time last year and the local Safer Neighbourhood Team is now using covert techniques and plain clothes officers in a bid to catch the offenders.

Police have tried various initiatives to deter thieves, such as Operation Spoke, which saw 4,000 bikes tagged with a UV mark to increase the chances of them being returned if stolen.

Cycles with RedWeb technology – tracking devices left on cycles to trap offenders – are also frequently deployed.

Graham Titchener said “a serious amount of money” from the Cycling City budget had been ploughed into cycling safety and security in the city.

“We want people to cycle more so we need to spend money to make sure cycling is safe and secure,” he said. There has been a rise in the number of cyclists in the city and the number of bikes being purchased, so that might be one factor.

“But I have to say we are perplexed. I would say people need to invest in decent locks – those that only cost a couple of pounds are not adequate.”

CTC York spokesman Paul Hepworth said more money was needed to cover parts of the city not yet covered by CCTV.

He said: “Anyone who has spent hard-earned money on a bike, especially an expensive one, is going to be naturally upset by the theft of their cycle.”

Lifelong lover of most things cycling-related, from Moulton Mini adventures in the 70s to London bike messengering in the 80s, commuting in the 90s, mountain biking in the noughties and road cycling throughout. Editor of Simpson Magazine ( 

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kitkat | 13 years ago

reminds me of the old fast show sketch with Chris Jackson, the Crafty Cockney... you can't trust me, i'll nick anything!

STATO | 13 years ago

Im not supprised theft is up, the number of new cyclists out there who seem to have a carefree attitude to theft is quite high. A girl in my office had her bike stolen as she just left it outside a shop in a not particularly friendly part of town and when she left some kid was riding it down the street. Not supprising really. There are plenty of police out and about in that area, even cycle ones, but there isnt really anything they can do about it.

(should point out im in Newcastle not York)

timlennon | 13 years ago

That's a bit unfair, Jon. If you read the article, they've 'tried a numberr of initiatives' including at least two specifically aimed at catching the thieves.

Is it so unlikely that cyclists aren't making enough effort to lock their bikes up? Sure, a dedicated thief can acquire the tools to defeat some very good locks, but that's a bit like suggesting every car takes seconds to get into, so you may as well just leave it unlocked with the keys in the ignition.

I thought the article seemed fairly well balanced: cycle theft is up, and both parties - Police and owners - need to do something about it.

Jon Burrage | 13 years ago

Why is the response from the police always along the lines of 'thieves, stealing bikes, the cyclists mustn't know how to lock their bikes up'. Why dont they go and try and catch them or give a deterrant rather than just tell cyclists to buy better locks. A thief can get through event the best lock in a matter of seconds with the right kit and they know full well there is no comeback on them for doing so.

Easy money really.

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