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"Consider taking different routes home": Police warning to cyclists that thieves following riders to steal bikes later

Police advised cyclists to "check to see if you are being followed" and change routes regularly...

A police force has warned that bike thieves may be following cyclists home to find out where they live, returning later to steal items, and asked riders to "consider taking different routes home".

The warning comes from Avon and Somerset Police who said thieves in Bristol have a "modus operandi" that is "to possibly follow residents to find out where they live and return later to steal the items".

ITV West Country reported on Bristol's bike theft problem, speaking to victims of thefts, but also heard from the area's police force which said there had been a "number of incidents" and that it believed criminals were targeting riders on high-value mountain bikes and e-bikes.

"The offenders' modus operandi or MO is to possibly follow residents to find out where they live and return later to steal the items," Avon and Somerset Police said. "Check to see if you are being followed and try to obtain relevant vehicle details and descriptions of suspects. 

"Also, consider taking different routes home and target hardening your property, for example CCTV, camera doorbells, alarms, better locks, better locks and/or air tags for bikes, using Secured by Design products."

Almost 90 per cent of bike thefts reported to the police in England and Wales between July 2021 and June 2022 closed without a suspect being identified, while a YouGov survey found that more than three quarters of British people do not expect the police to bother investigating bike thefts. 

Avon and Somerset Police insisted that "we do understand the impact of this type of theft and we're targeting hotspots and offenders with a range of resources and tactics".

Concerns about the increasingly brazen tactics used by thieves to target cyclists are nothing new, with multiple incidents being reported on this website of criminals using tools such as angle grinders to cut through locks in broad daylight in busy locations, as well as the concerningly frequent reports of violent bikejackings.

> "It's just not safe": Cyclist raises alarm after another violent bikejacking on popular route

This month alone we have shared shocking footage from the West Midlands which showed masked men attempting to steal a cyclist's bike after forcing him off the road with an SUV, and reported on an incident in Wolverhampton which saw a thief attempt to cut through a lock outside Asda, seemingly unconcerned by the bystander withdrawing cash metres away.

Last month, a man was convicted of a bike theft, but only after the mother of the victim held a three-day protest outside the offender's house amid clear CCTV evidence and police inaction.

Bike theft protest (Fiona Bateman/Spotted Witney Official/Facebook)

It was also recently revealed that bike thefts at train stations are up 39 per cent, while the reports of bikejackings keep rolling in.

Last autumn, the situation on one south London cycle route got so bad that graffiti warning cyclists of attacks was sprayed on the entrance to one stretch of infrastructure. A month previous we had reported that a cyclist was threatened with a "foot-long knife" during a robbery 300m away.

Graffiti warning cyclists on C10 (credit - Karl Thomas, Facebook)

London, and the countryside that surrounds it, has been a hotspot for incidents, in August a Kent cyclist once again raising the alarm about bikejackings in the area, sharing video footage of two moped-riding attackers forcing him off the road in a frightening incident on a busy road in broad daylight.

In the most high-profile incident, in autumn 2021, professional cyclist Alexandar Richardson was knocked off his bike, dragged for 100 metres by muggers on motorbikes, and threatened with a machete during a shocking bikejacking in Richmond Park. In April a teenage aged 15 was jailed for 12 months.

> "They said give us the bike or we stab you": Another cyclist targeted by motorbike-riding muggers on popular route out of London

Another professional cyclist, former Scottish champion Jennifer George has said she no longer rides alone after she was similarly attacked by two people on a motorbike during a ride from her home in south east London out to Surrey.

The situation got so bad last summer that British Cycling stepped in to say it was "deeply concerned" by the bikejackings and to advise riders to "be mindful of their privacy settings on all electronic devices", such as when uploading rides to Strava or other platforms.

At the time, Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at Cycling UK, said he believes criminals are attracted to stealing high-end bikes because the potential money to be made from selling them on far outweighs the chances of getting caught.

"It is possibly perceived as a low-risk crime if the numbers of people being caught are so low," he explained. "It may be seen as a high-reward, low-risk crime.

"There have been increasing concerns about people cycling out of London to the Kent and Surrey hills who have been victims of muggings or robbery. There are a limited number of routes where people would cycle out of London.

"Somebody has posted on Strava what they are doing on their ride. The criminals will know it is someone on a £3,000 to £4,000 carbon fibre bike who has unwittingly signposted the fact that they are likely to be heading out to Kent or the Surrey Hills. It is on the police's radar."

Dan joined road.cc 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 road.cc, 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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22 comments

Avatar
Left_is_for_Losers | 4 months ago
0 likes

"Somebody has posted on Strava what they are doing on their ride"

I thought usually Strava is used for recording rides, not scheduling them... Setting accounts to private and hiding the start & finish will help.

The Strava heatmap is also a bit of a concerning feature, as it doesn't take into account hidden start finishes. I know in the town near me you can see the obvious regularly ridden drives and roads and could do a pretty good guess where owners would live. 

Avatar
OldRidgeback | 4 months ago
2 likes

Maybe the police think cyclists should switch homes randomly with friends so as not to be confronted by thieves?

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Terry Hutt | 4 months ago
4 likes

"Consider taking different routes home"

I'm not sure the police understand the nature of these follow-home crimes. Perhaps they meant to say "Consider taking routes to a different home".

I wonder if these criminals ever raid coffee-shops thinking we all live there. "Bruv, der wuz a buncha bikes here dis mornin'"

Avatar
nick_stokie | 4 months ago
8 likes

Who is buying the stolen hi-end bikes to create the demand? I understand the 'business model' of nicking a convenient (mountain/hybrid) bike from outside the shops/station and selling it around the back of a pub for £20 to someone who just needs a basic bike. But if you're reselling a £5k bike then who is buying them at a mid-range price and not asking any basic questions ("oh, you've lost the Di2 charger, ah well") to make the targetted thefts worthwhile?

Avatar
Sriracha replied to nick_stokie | 4 months ago
7 likes

Thieves aren't the only criminals!

Avatar
Ratfink replied to nick_stokie | 4 months ago
2 likes

I suspect it's a way of moving money across borders,You pay for what's coming in with a number of containers of high end bikes that can be sold on elsewhere.No paper records or crypto trail.

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JMcL_Ireland replied to nick_stokie | 4 months ago
1 like

I believe there's 2 things that happen. Firstly, a lot of the high end stuff is shipped out and dealt with by organised crime gangs in Eastern Europe. This would be borne out by some stories that have been on here (e.g., the chap trying in vain to get the cops to show the slightest bit of interest in the £40k worth of MTBs he had stolen and traced - himself - to Poland) Quite common in the luxury car world as well I believe. Secondly, again common in the luxury motor crime market, is to sell the individual parts. Easier for buyers to turn a blind eye - innocently or conveniently - and with the possible exception of the frame next to impossible to track. It's more work and hassle on the part of the scumbags, but very difficult to prove provenance, and potentially more lucrative

Avatar
Left_is_for_Losers replied to nick_stokie | 4 months ago
0 likes

If you're selling the stolen bike on gumtree or ebay you could still buy it for a fair price without knowing it was a stolen bike. 

Best way is to check bikre register, and make sure your bike is on there too in the event it is stolen, at least it shouldn't go to someone with morals to check first then, 

Avatar
brooksby | 4 months ago
6 likes
Quote:

more than three quarters of British people do not expect the police to bother investigating bike thefts

Fixed it for you.

Avatar
HoldingOn replied to brooksby | 4 months ago
10 likes
brooksby wrote:
Quote:

more than three quarters of British people do not expect the police to bother investigating bike thefts

Fixed it for you.

Fixed it for you...yes

Avatar
Pub bike replied to HoldingOn | 4 months ago
8 likes
HoldingOn wrote:
brooksby wrote:
Quote:

Most more than three quarters of British people do not expect the police to bother investigating bike thefts

Fixed it for you.

Fixed it for you...yes

Fixed it.

Avatar
ROOTminus1 replied to Pub bike | 4 months ago
0 likes
Pub bike wrote:
HoldingOn wrote:
brooksby wrote:
Quote:

Most more than three quarters of British people do not expect the police to bother investigating bike thefts

Fixed it for you.

Fixed it for you...yes

Fixed it.

Fixed it one step further

Avatar
Secret_squirrel | 4 months ago
4 likes

Semi-related (motorbike):

Funnily enough this showed up on Twatter about Brizzle bike thefts today.

The woman is a super hero and bonus points for a late appearance of FireExtinguisher man.

https://x.com/NormanBrennan/status/1717231738588745768?s=20

 

Avatar
brooksby replied to Secret_squirrel | 4 months ago
2 likes

The driver of that car calmly waiting for them to clear the way, should have just "nudged" over their getaway motorbike, IMO ("Oh dear, I didn't see it.  Oh dear, I didn't see it that time either").  I do hope somebody also phoned the police...  The number of people who just walked past without even looking up was quite scary.

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stonojnr replied to brooksby | 4 months ago
1 like

Thing is you know full well it would be the one time the police then decide to make an example of the driver for hitting something for a change.

The version of video I saw had someone giving descriptions that sounded like they were talking to a 999 call handler.

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powergoose replied to brooksby | 4 months ago
2 likes

To be fair, as angry as we all may be, it takes a lot to confront three people armed with a hammer

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Secret_squirrel | 4 months ago
2 likes
Secret_squirrel wrote:

Semi-related (motorbike):

Funnily enough this showed up on Twatter about Brizzle bike thefts today.

The woman is a super hero and bonus points for a late appearance of FireExtinguisher man.

https://x.com/NormanBrennan/status/1717231738588745768?s=20

They've arrested two teenagers

https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/clifton-motorbike-robbery-two-teenagers-8861613

Avatar
brooksby replied to hawkinspeter | 4 months ago
2 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:
Secret_squirrel wrote:

Semi-related (motorbike):

Funnily enough this showed up on Twatter about Brizzle bike thefts today.

The woman is a super hero and bonus points for a late appearance of FireExtinguisher man.

https://x.com/NormanBrennan/status/1717231738588745768?s=20

They've arrested two teenagers

https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/clifton-motorbike-robbery-two-teenagers-8861613

Aged 16 and 17 

Avatar
Sriracha | 4 months ago
12 likes

... because when you give the police the registration number of dodgy types you suspect could be, you know, a bit iffy, they jump on it with the same alacrity as if they were proven to have no MOT or VED. And when you tell them you've traced your stolen bike to an address, they go in mob-handed to recover it - not.

Avatar
Safety replied to Sriracha | 4 months ago
10 likes

Siracha,
Sadly it's worse than that because if you tell the police you know who has it and where they live they warn you not to do anything. Despite being clear they won't be doing anything either.

Avatar
Car Delenda Est replied to Safety | 4 months ago
2 likes

"sir it is my duty to inform you that we hold a monopoly on violence, have a nice day"

Avatar
wtjs replied to Sriracha | 4 months ago
6 likes

.. because when you give the police the registration number of dodgy types you suspect could be, you know, a bit iffy, they jump on it with the same alacrity as if they were proven to have no MOT or VED

Couldn't resist further publicising the current Garstang champion again: WU59 UMH  with 6 years free of any of that VED, insurance or MOT red tape, and a recent failed MOT for dangerous defects. There must be thousands of these around Lancashire, but no matter how often they're reported there's still the same determination to teach the reporter a lesson by taking no action - pour encourager les autres

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