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Sussex Police refuse to watch their own CCTV footage of bike theft

Likely use of staff time judged to be “not proportionate to the nature of the offence”

You’d think that CCTV would work best as a theft deterrent if there were some sense that the footage might actually be seen. A Brighton man whose bike was stolen in full view of police-controlled cameras was this week told that Sussex Police would not be reviewing the recordings as this was not a proportionate use of staff time.

The Argus reports that thieves first took the saddle from David Bailey’s £1,000 mountain bike so that he couldn’t ride it home and then returned that night to cut through the silver-category Kryptoflex chain made of 10mm braided steel cable with which he’d secured it to a bike rack.

The theft took place between 7pm on August 8 and 8am the next day in Old Steine, an area that is covered by police-controlled CCTV.

Bailey phoned 101 and was told that using staff time to view the footage was “not proportionate to the nature of the offence.”

Bailey offered to view the footage himself and was told to ask a nearby supermarket for its tapes.

“They asked me when it was stolen. I told them between 7pm and 8am. They said, ‘That period is too long for us to review the CCTV so we won’t be doing it’.

“So I said I’d review it but they said ‘no’. Someone is turning up with bolt cutters, in a van probably. This wasn’t an opportunistic crime, this was premeditated. I’m disappointed that the police reaction was, ‘We won’t be taking this any further’.”

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “CCTV covering the area was not checked because the use of staff time to search 12 hours of recordings was assessed in this case as not proportionate to the nature of the offence.”

The Argus said that the force included a link to a page on their website with information on how to prevent bike thefts, including the advice: “If you can, lock your bike at recognised secure cycle parking it should be well lit and covered by CCTV.”

The force also asked people to continue to report crimes, “so that we can identify any trends and focus our operations accordingly”.

Our own Jack Sexty had a similar experience when his bike was stolen from outside Broadmead in Bristol in July in an area covered by the shopping centre’s CCTV.

The bike was taken at some point in a seven-hour window and he was told by Avon and Somerset Police that they could only review the footage if they knew the theft had taken place in a three-hour window.

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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31 comments

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fenix | 6 years ago
0 likes

Tbh the police probably haven't the man power to look at the video at all. Not even in the manner suggested.   Less staff - more terror alerts - more social media complaints - they're too stretched. 

And yeah if someone messes with your bike - don't leave it there a moment longer. 

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TomJ | 6 years ago
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Has anyone asked the Sussex and Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioners to comment on the way the Force each is mean to be over seeing seem incapable of working out how to bracket the time using the fast-forward/rewind technique recommended above?  And whether he thinks attempting to identify organised thieves of whom he knows footage exists should be a relatively high priority for the Force?

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Snake8355 | 6 years ago
1 like

This bugs me no end. 

Lost opportunity to identify person or people who are obviously prolific. 

Lost opportunity to recover stolen bike or bikes during a search after arrest. 

Also a lost opportunity to at least inconvenience the fucker for a few hours while they sit in the pokey. 

Having said that, there's no guarantee that cctv will capture a clear enough image to use evidentially. But there's an expression up here. "Shy bairns get nowt". Basically if you don't look you won't find. 

I'd complain. Guessing he spoke to a control room civilian who is under pressure to clear the call before the next one and is spouting diktat for low level thefts such as shoplifting. It's the way forward apparently. 

As for leaving it there after the seat was nicked. I have to say that it was naive to leave it. Should have reported it then. Start of a pattern? 

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embattle | 6 years ago
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As stated it is a silly reply, I check CCTV footage at times for things a lot smaller than a bicycle and just jump each hour until I see a shape change then I scan through that hour.

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Metaphor | 6 years ago
0 likes

Keep pushing for a complaint. This is digusting contempt for law (by the Police!)

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nbrus | 6 years ago
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If the police aren't willing to review the cctv footage, then why can't they allow the ex bike owner to review it for them? Granted, the chances of identifying the thief are still likely to be slim even with the footage, but you never know.

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wknight | 6 years ago
1 like

Hampshire Police are the same. Had several very close passes, sent in video and they say they that  no one has been injured. Yet they bring many stupid cases to court such as 'stealing £20 from a person' into the Magistrates court

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TomW | 6 years ago
1 like

I had exactly this a few weeks ago in Oxford. Bike nicked and when I called the Police and told them there was a CCTV camera 30 yards away they said they wouldn't review for this. The thieves might as well have waved at the camera as they did it....

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armb | 6 years ago
1 like

Cambridge police have also used the excuse that since it's impossible to fast forward video, they can't possibly be expected to review CCTV footage.
https://twitter.com/RTaylorUK/status/878156922943393792

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kitsunegari replied to armb | 6 years ago
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armb wrote:

Cambridge police have also used the excuse that since it's impossible to fast forward video, they can't possibly be expected to review CCTV footage.
https://twitter.com/RTaylorUK/status/878156922943393792

One of the cycling cities of the UK folks!

Cambridgeshire police do not give a shit about cyclists.

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LastBoyScout | 6 years ago
5 likes

Riding any distance without a saddle is a pain (I know, I've done it!), but it's not impossible and I certainly wouldn't leave a £1k bike behind because of it and absolutely not overnight somewhere with an obvious crime problem.

None of which excuses the attitude of the police. Even if they had footage from several CCTV locations to review, they can use the method already described on one of them to identify the time of theft and then fast forward to that time on all the others.

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brooksby | 6 years ago
1 like
Quote:

The Argus reports that thieves first took the saddle from David Bailey’s £1,000 mountain bike so that he couldn’t ride it home ...

The bloke must be gutted.

However, pretty much every book, article, or website about bike security and bike theft I've ever read says that it's a very common practice to somehow disable a locked bike, so the owner leaves the bike and the thieves can come back and deal with it at their leisure.

The ones I've read talk about people having their locks glued shut; this was "just" his saddle being stolen - couldn't he have walked it home, or walked it to a shop and bought the cheapest saddle he could find?  I've actually seen someone riding with no saddle (had a seatpost, but no saddle, which is a bit scary...).

My point is - if I came back to my bike and the saddle had been taken, I'd be immediately suspicious. I definitely wouldn't go, "Hey-ho" and leave it it the same place overnight.

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wycombewheeler replied to brooksby | 6 years ago
1 like
brooksby wrote:
Quote:

The Argus reports that thieves first took the saddle from David Bailey’s £1,000 mountain bike so that he couldn’t ride it home ...

The bloke must be gutted.

However, pretty much every book, article, or website about bike security and bike theft I've ever read says that it's a very common practice to somehow disable a locked bike, so the owner leaves the bike and the thieves can come back and deal with it at their leisure.

The ones I've read talk about people having their locks glued shut; this was "just" his saddle being stolen - couldn't he have walked it home, or walked it to a shop and bought the cheapest saddle he could find?  I've actually seen someone riding with no saddle (had a seatpost, but no saddle, which is a bit scary...).

My point is - if I came back to my bike and the saddle had been taken, I'd be immediately suspicious. I definitely wouldn't go, "Hey-ho" and leave it it the same place overnight.

At the age of 17, I cycled 10 miles home standing up when my saddle had been stolen. Leaving the bike there never even occurred to me.
It was tough, it was not impossible.

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alansmurphy | 6 years ago
0 likes

For "this is a bike crime area" read "the world"...

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kevinmorice | 6 years ago
4 likes

So you park your bike somewhere, it gets partly stolen, so you now have clear evidence that this is a bike crime area, and then you decide to leave your £1,000 bike overnight because it is too hard to ride it home (or transport it some other way) without a saddle. Lazy or stupid?

 

No that isn't victim-blaming, nor is it making any excuse for the criminal. It is common sense.

 

And it is a waste of police time. Especially because anyone with more than a googled appreciation of the law will know that even good quality CCTV, without other evidence, is next to useless in UK courts.

 

The £1,000 value plays both ways. If it was big enough for the police to care about (value shouldn't actually matter to them, their value is in convicting criminals regardless of the cost of the stolen property, but let us ignore that for now) then it was big enough for him to have insured it so we are actually talking about the value of the crime being the value of his insurance excess.

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PaulBox replied to kevinmorice | 6 years ago
2 likes
kevinmorice wrote:

So you park your bike somewhere, it gets partly stolen, so you now have clear evidence that this is a bike crime area, and then you decide to leave your £1,000 bike overnight because it is too hard to ride it home (or transport it some other way) without a saddle. Lazy or stupid?

 

No that isn't victim-blaming, nor is it making any excuse for the criminal. It is common sense.

 

And it is a waste of police time. Especially because anyone with more than a googled appreciation of the law will know that even good quality CCTV, without other evidence, is next to useless in UK courts.

 

The £1,000 value plays both ways. If it was big enough for the police to care about (value shouldn't actually matter to them, their value is in convicting criminals regardless of the cost of the stolen property, but let us ignore that for now) then it was big enough for him to have insured it so we are actually talking about the value of the crime being the value of his insurance excess.

Firstly, I did think similar, if I'd found that my saddle had been stolen during the day, I certainly wouldn't have left the rest of my bike there overnight.

However, I disagree with the rest of your post. The police said that it probably wasn't an opportunistic theft, that somebody had probably come equipped. So, there is a good chance that the offender would either have been known to them or part of an organised (probably local) gang. So even if the cctv evidence alone was not enough to convict in this instace, it could have helped to build a case in the future. Especially if they had turned up in a vehicle.

PS. Do you understand how insurance works in terms of the premiums that we pay the payouts etc.?

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ChrisB200SX replied to kevinmorice | 6 years ago
5 likes
kevinmorice wrote:

No that isn't victim-blaming, nor is it making any excuse for the criminal. It is common sense.

And it is a waste of police time. Especially because anyone with more than a googled appreciation of the law will know that even good quality CCTV, without other evidence, is next to useless in UK courts.

That is victim blaming. You're literally saying it's his fault for following all of the Police advice and leaving it there, securely locked up in plain sight under CCTV and then reporting a crime and expecting Police to inverstigate a crime. If this was a rape, would you expect the Police to not investigate you because the victim could not pin-point the exact hour the assualt occurred?
It's fairly well known that bike thieves tend to be serial offenders, investigate each crime and you'll probably end up solving many more and making a big difference to our society... and have less bike thefts to investigate for a while. It doesn''t necessarily need to go to court; identify suspects, pop round to their houses, investigate a bit more, confiscate huge cache of stolen bicycles. Doesn't exactly sound like a hige drain on resources.

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JB_Biker replied to kevinmorice | 6 years ago
0 likes
kevinmorice wrote:

And it is a waste of police time. Especially because anyone with more than a googled appreciation of the law will know that even good quality CCTV, without other evidence, is next to useless in UK courts.

Sadly true, my girlfriend had her bike nicked from the new 'secure' bike racks at the new Southmead Hospital. CCTV was clear as day, bloke walked up to the bike racks, pulled out a bolt-cropper, cut the lock (Secure Silver rated), and cycled off; but because the thief wore a baseball cap the hospital security staff wouldn't even forward the crime to plod.

Unfortunately, unless your bike is under you it's 'at risk' and I wouldn' even count on the insurance companies to pay out if you had taken 'reasonable' precautions (like using a Gold / Silver rated lock in a 'secure' bike rack).

 2

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arowland replied to kevinmorice | 6 years ago
0 likes
kevinmorice wrote:

... then you decide to leave your £1,000 bike overnight because it is too hard to ride it home (or transport it some other way) without a saddle. Lazy or stupid?...

Um, how long could you ride a bike without a saddle without once forgetting and sitting down?

(But yes, he could have moved it somewhere else nearby to fool the thieves, but at the time he probably thought of it as a saddle theft, not a prelude to bike theft. Easy to be wise after the event, isn't it?)

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wycombewheeler replied to arowland | 6 years ago
0 likes
arowland wrote:
kevinmorice wrote:

... then you decide to leave your £1,000 bike overnight because it is too hard to ride it home (or transport it some other way) without a saddle. Lazy or stupid?...

Um, how long could you ride a bike without a saddle without once forgetting and sitting down?

(But yes, he could have moved it somewhere else nearby to fool the thieves, but at the time he probably thought of it as a saddle theft, not a prelude to bike theft. Easy to be wise after the event, isn't it?)

as a 17 year old I managed 8 miles.

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WiznaeMe | 6 years ago
4 likes

I would ask for a quick meeting with the local Inspector and tell them you expect the police to review the tape in the manner suggested above.  If they decline then complain.  After all, if you were in a shop you would ask for the manager.  Etc

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Yorkshire wallet | 6 years ago
6 likes

 

Quite frightening that such dullards are in such positions.

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Markus | 6 years ago
3 likes

Does the pollice actually have the legal right to not investigate clear evidence?

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STiG911 | 6 years ago
9 likes

So basically leaving aside what the material object was, £1000 isn't significant in the eyes of the Police.

Brilliant. Your taxes at work.

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anyuser | 6 years ago
11 likes

It doesnt take long to review 12 hours of footage.  Fast forward to the halfway point 'was the bike there?' > Yes fast forward to 3/4 point 'was the bike there?' > No.  Now we only have 3 hours to review,.  Repeat above process then we only have 30 mins to review, Repeat the above process.......

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Jeffmcguinness | 6 years ago
28 likes

This makes zero sense.  Surely all the police have to do is forward to halfway through the recording, check if the bike is there - if it is, then they know the incident is in the second half of the footage.  If it isn't there then the incident is in the first half of the footage.  Repeat this a few times and I suspect you could identify the incident after about 10 minutes  (max) of searching.

 

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anyuser replied to Jeffmcguinness | 6 years ago
3 likes
Jeffmcguinness wrote:

This makes zero sense.  Surely all the police have to do is forward to halfway through the recording, check if the bike is there - if it is, then they know the incident is in the second half of the footage.  If it isn't there then the incident is in the first half of the footage.  Repeat this a few times and I suspect you could identify the incident after about 10 minutes  (max) of searching.

 

cheeky you beat me to it

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Morgoth985 replied to Jeffmcguinness | 6 years ago
3 likes
Jeffmcguinness wrote:

This makes zero sense.  Surely all the police have to do is forward to halfway through the recording, check if the bike is there - if it is, then they know the incident is in the second half of the footage.  If it isn't there then the incident is in the first half of the footage.  Repeat this a few times and I suspect you could identify the incident after about 10 minutes  (max) of searching.

 

The other thing that worries me is that, in the absence of this advice, presumably their approach is to sit there through the whole thing.   Is this kind of thing widespread?   Even if they restrict themselves to three hour windows, I have visions of police the length and breadth of the land, sitting glued to their monitors, watching nothing happen for three hours at a time.   I thought they were strapped for resources.

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Paul J replied to Jeffmcguinness | 6 years ago
5 likes
Jeffmcguinness wrote:

This makes zero sense.  Surely all the police have to do is forward to halfway through the recording, check if the bike is there - if it is, then they know the incident is in the second half of the footage.  If it isn't there then the incident is in the first half of the footage.  Repeat this a few times and I suspect you could identify the incident after about 10 minutes  (max) of searching.

 

Yeah, that's exactly what they should be doing. It's called a binary search, and it means the time needed to find when it happened will be logarithmic relative to the total time - i.e. it will be *minimal*, for almost any conceivable number of hours of recording.

This is a well known way to search for things. It's amazing the police think they have to view the whole thing!

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clayfit replied to Jeffmcguinness | 6 years ago
2 likes
Jeffmcguinness wrote:

This makes zero sense.  Surely all the police have to do is forward to halfway through the recording, check if the bike is there - if it is, then they know the incident is in the second half of the footage.  If it isn't there then the incident is in the first half of the footage.  Repeat this a few times and I suspect you could identify the incident after about 10 minutes  (max) of searching.

 

I can see that there's a reason why you're not a police officer.  Having more than half a brain has disqualified you.

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