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Spate of cycle thefts after bike sheds discovered to have unique safety flaw

One resident who has had two bikes stolen since he moved in admitted 'he felt a bit of an idiot'...

A spate of cycle thefts have taken place after bike sheds in a housing development were discovered to have a rather unbelievable design flaw. 

The ventilation holes in the brick wall exterior are big enough for any would-be thief to simply stick an arm through and open the door from the inside.

One resident, who has had two bikes stolen, said he had lived in the building for three years and went into the bike shed every day but never put 'two and two together'.

He admitted he felt like 'a bit of an idiot'.

As the Cambridge Independent report, the situation is made worse by the fact the thefts happened on a development that has a 'Secured By Design' certificate from police to show that it has been built to prevent crime.

Resident James Williams was one of the unfortunate people to have his bike stolen from the store.

He said: “It’s a real shame because I built the bike myself but I’m hoping the insurance will cover it.

“I think the ease with which the thieves were able to break in surprised everyone.

"Previously in 2019 I had a bike stolen from the bike store but on that occasion even the thieves did not spot that particular security flaw. They had broken the lock so a new sturdier lock was put in its place.

“I have lived there for three years, going in and out of that door every day, and hadn’t put two and two together. I feel like a bit of an idiot for not seeing it but I’m blind to those kinds of things I suppose."

Anti-bike crime campaigner James Hems went to check out the scene in Hobson Road, Great Kneighton, Cambridgeshire, after a neighbour said he had spotted doors to the buildings swinging open early in the morning on the weekend of February 27.

Mr Hems, a member of the Stolen Bikes in Cambridge action group on Facebook, said: “When I got there I couldn’t believe what I was seeing – these storage units are unbelievably easy to break into.

"There are gaps between bricks for ventilation through which you can easily put in an arm and reach the catch inside the door and unlock it.

“To our knowledge, nine of the bike stores were broken into and six bikes were stolen. And there could be other people that aren’t aware of the Facebook group who may have reported thefts. For each group of apartments there is at least one of these units.

“They just took the most valuable ones – people have lost thousands of pounds worth of bikes.

“It’s obvious that these storage areas are not fit for purpose.”

A spokesperson for Countryside Properties, who own the development, said: “We are aware of the recent bicycle thefts from bicycle storage units on Hobson Road.

"This has been reported to the police. We are monitoring the situation and working to ensure the security of the units.”

Cambridge city councillor Katie Thornburrow has promised to meet with the developer to try and rectify the situation.

She said: "It’s very fundamental – you shouldn’t leave an opening that someone can reach into and turn the door handle."

The development by Countryside Properties in Great Kneighton was awarded a Secured By Design certificate to show how specially trained police officers and staff, based at Cambridgeshire Constabulary HQ at Huntingdon, worked with developers, architects and local authority planners to ‘design out crime’ at the planning stage through to construction.

Cllr Thorburrow added: “You have to be able to have an accessible secure store which you rely on to encourage people to use bikes.

"It’s really terrible and I need to feed this back at planning policy level for new developments. But as well as the lessons learnt from this for planning, we need to help current residents."

A  spokesperson for Cambridgeshire Constabulary, has confirmed the thefts: "We received six reports of bike thefts from Hobson Road and Hawkey Road in Cambridge on 27 February. All bikes were believed to have been stolen overnight while locked in communal cycle storage facilities."

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