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Cyclist spots thief with her stolen bike... outside police station — then assaulted during confrontation

"I went to make a report and saw the thief with my Bianchi... in front of the police station. He wouldn't let it go and shoved me": A road.cc reader's bike theft nightmare...

Having your bicycle stolen is bad enough, but imagine then spotting the thief with your bike just hours later — outside a police station of all places — and being assaulted when you confront them...

> This story has now been updated: read more here

That's the grim reality of one road.cc reader's bike theft nightmare which started in the early hours of Wednesday 31 August when the bicycle storage facility at her Harbourside apartment building, in Bristol, was broken into and anything unlocked — lights, pumps, wheels and other gear — was taken.

> Police failed to catch a bike thief in 87% of affected neighbourhoods in past three years

A neighbour's "deathtrap Trek" with seized wheels was left unlocked and the thief, or thieves, used one of the road.cc reader's Bianchi's wheels to get it rolling, opting against fitting the rear wheel too.

After the Harbourside security office refused to release the CCTV footage ("with the excuse of data protection") the reader found the bike, and her wheel, on Clare Street at 11am and returned it to the building.

Stolen Trek

However: "On Thursday morning at 10.30 am, I discovered that the thieves had returned with an angle grinder and stolen anything that looked flashy," she explained.

"Three of my bikes — Whyte Victoria 2012 with a dent on the top tube, Boardman Comp Fi 2014, Bianchi Via Nirone 7 2017 —) and MTBs and gravel bikes were taken.

"After surveying the damage, I made my way to the police station to make a report. At 11 am I saw the thief with my Bianchi... in front of the police station. I confronted the thief and assertively took my bike back as I assumed he'd be stunned by my confrontation and give up.

> Inside the mind of a bike thief — learn how to protect your bike

"He wouldn't let it go, yanked it and shoved me. A woman and her son passing by were witnesses. We flagged down a passing police officer and he took off on foot to look for the thief with just the description of my Bianchi. I later found another witness on the Bristol Cyclists page who was driving by. Unfortunately, no one could remember the appearance of the thief."

The thief was with two men who, the next day, the road.cc reader spotted one of in a larger group while walking through Broadmead. They had two more "presumably stolen bikes that I didn't recognise as they" were not from the Harbourside building.

"His mates brazenly waved at me to come closer to take a photo. I tried to look for police officers in the area but couldn't find any," she continued. 

"The city centre police station is shut for renovation so I walked all the way to Trinity Road police station. I wanted to make a separate report for assault as advised on Bristol Cyclists. They found my initial report categorised as burglary and re-categorised it as assault.

"At 4.30pm, I received a welfare phone call from the police control room. I said I was physically fine and they said officers will be in touch with me again. At 5pm I finally found police officers patrolling on College Green.

"They advised me that I can call 999 and police officers can confront the accomplices, and reassured me it wouldn't be a waste of time. Unfortunately, by 5.30pm the accomplice was no longer at Broadmead."

The road.cc reader, and other residents, have not been reunited with their stolen bikes and nobody has been caught for the double break-in.

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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7 comments

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PRSboy | 1 year ago
4 likes

Hopefully, if the CCTV can be viewed by the Police, there is a chance the thieves could be ID'd.

All very depressing, I hope the OP recovers her lovely Bianchi as the guys seem to be seen out and about in Bristol alot.

Avatar
RoubaixCube replied to PRSboy | 1 year ago
6 likes

Having sat a CCTV course, I can confirm that it is illegal to refuse to allow police who are investigating a case to view and make copies of video footage that may be required for evidence.

Refusal would fall under the crime of 'Obstructing a Police Officer' section 89(2) Police Act 1996' - that could see you in the slammer for a maybe a month or two. (possibly three if youre unlucky)

Data protection means that the footage cant be shown to just anybody or random joe who asks... This unfortunately includes the victim(s) themselves. Some places may give copies of the footage or allow viewing their CCTV if you ask, but they are breaking the law by doing so.

--- Which is doubly unfortunate because we all know that certain police departments/regions quite often dont like/want to investigate things or if they do they do a poor job when it comes to gathering evidence if they consider a case is of low priority. There has been multiple news articles of victims doing their own investigation and evidence gathering over the years when the police have decided it isnt worth their time investigating or done a poor job of it. -- So its a bit of a catch 22. If the police wont investigate/gather evidence and youre not allowed to gather evidence yourself then what hope do you have of getting any sort of justice or retribution?

If people break the law by stealing from you, but then you have to break the law to make sure that these people get caught and justice is served then something is clearly wrong with the system.

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Secret_squirrel replied to RoubaixCube | 1 year ago
4 likes

RoubaixCube wrote:

Data protection means that the footage cant be shown to just anybody or random joe who asks... This unfortunately includes the victim(s) themselves. Some places may give copies of the footage or allow viewing their CCTV if you ask, but they are breaking the law by doing so.

I'm sorry thats oversimplified bollocks trying to make the CCTV owners life easy and risk free by preventing any Joe Random from getting the footage.

There is nothing in Data Protection law that says you cannot share data.  It says you cannot share it without a valid purpose.  Someone getting robbed is a valid purpose.

A blanket no-sharing policy was never the intent of GDPR although arguably scaring everybody with fines achieved exactly that.

Avatar
qwerty360 replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago
4 likes

Secret_squirrel wrote:

I'm sorry thats oversimplified bollocks trying to make the CCTV owners life easy and risk free by preventing any Joe Random from getting the footage.

There is nothing in Data Protection law that says you cannot share data.  It says you cannot share it without a valid purpose.  Someone getting robbed is a valid purpose.

A blanket no-sharing policy was never the intent of GDPR although arguably scaring everybody with fines achieved exactly that.

This. The exemption that allows for the police to get the footage is public interest, and an explicit example is "for administration of justice". It has no requirement that the person asking is a police officer.

Of course refusing to provide the officer footage is a crime in its own right (hence why they can't refuse an officer).

The problem is that they can use data protection as an excuse not to do anything.

 

I suspect the best option would be to request the relevent footage in writing and that if they don't want to provide it under data protection to request it is kept for the relevent authorities (as otherwise they could delete it, often done automatically...). I suspect this would make it hard to delete (as justification for having cameras and processing footage will be prevention of crime... If they won't supply footage then what is the reason per GDPR for having cameras.)

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brooksby | 1 year ago
1 like

Quote:

I confronted the thief and assertively took my bike back as I assumed he'd be stunned by my confrontation and give up.

I never think of myself as being particularly naive, but reading that... <shakes head>.

In my mind, I had presumed that burglars and bike thieves rationalise it as "they can afford to get a new one" or "they'll have insurance", etc.  And that if then faced by the actual owner, an actual human being, that they would walk away rather than escalate to assault.

Clearly I was wrong. 

Avatar
visionset replied to brooksby | 1 year ago
4 likes

Yep, it all comes down to the fact they know there is unlikely to be much interest in them being caught, even if there was, ineptitude would mean they weren't, and if they were the consequences would still make it worthwhile continueing in their chosen career path.

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fifeclub replied to visionset | 1 year ago
0 likes

And if you assert yourself and use some kind of violence against the criminal then there is a greater chance that you will get action taken by the police rather than the thief.

They also know this.

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