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

A total of 20,900 neighbourhoods where there had been at least one bike theft since June 2019 had seen all cases closed without a suspect being identified or charged, a Telegraph investigation found

The grim reality of the unlikelihood a bike theft victim will be reunited with their stolen bicycle has been outlined in an investigation by the Telegraph newspaper.

In their report, the national broadsheet revealed that of the nearly 24,000 neighbourhoods to have suffered at least one bike theft in the last three years, not one case had been solved in 87 per cent (20,900), meaning all the cases had been closed without a suspect identified or charged.

What's more, the investigation suggests the national average for a suspect being identified and charged was just 1.4 per cent in 2020, at the start of the investigation, and down from 2.8 per cent in 2016.

Sifting through crime figures and analysing 175,927 crimes between June 2019 and May 2022, the investigation found 18 neighbourhoods (each home to more than 1,500 people) which had more than 100 bike thefts, without a single case being solved.

At the bottom of the bike theft-solving charts was a neighbourhood in central and west Cambridge where not one suspect was identified nor charged in all 406 cases.

Some 4,000 bicycles are reported stolen in Cambridge in a typical year — with many more thefts going unreported — making it the UK's bike theft capital when considering how many bikes are stolen per head of population.

> "It makes you feel powerless" – victims in UK's bike theft capital share their frustrations

Last year we interviewed several of the city's bike theft victims, with one highlighting that repeated break-ins at bike storage facilities where she lives have left people feeling "powerless" and another saying that after their bikes were stolen, neither she nor her partner cycle to the city's railway stations.

Local cycle campaign group Camcycle estimated theft of bicycles – the most reported crime in the city – costs residents more than £1.5 million.

In 2020, at the start of the timespan of figures investigated by the Telegraph, James Sutherland, a superintendent of Cambridgeshire Constabulary, said that due to budget cuts and focusing on violent crime, the force was unable to prioritise bike theft.

"The loss of focus means cycle thieves have become brazen, greedy and lazy," he said.

According to the investigation, 98.8 per cent of 1,992 bike thefts in central Cambridge over the past three years had gone unsolved, while in Borough & Southwark Street, in London, there have been 591 unsolved thefts out of 603 reported (98 per cent).

The neighbourhood of North Laine and the Lanes, in Brighton, had 400 unsolved thefts, Petersfield in Cambridgeshire had 296, Hammersmith Broadway had 193, Central Islington had 168 and Richmond Central 165.

When the analysis was stretched to larger districts, housing 7,000 to 10,000 residents, 70 per cent of areas with at least one bike theft had not seen a single case solved between June 2019 and May 2022.

The investigation comes just two months after research by cycling insurer Bikmo found that reported bike thefts had fallen for the fifth year in a row, with a 10 per cent year-on-year decline in 2021 alone.

That research was in line with early-year figures from 40 UK police forces, published in February, which showed a fall in bike theft by 11.5 per cent in England, Wales and Northern Ireland compared to in 2020.

Dan joined in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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