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Almost 90% of bike thefts reported to police closed without suspect identified

Data uncovered by the Liberal Democrats shows that a thief is charged in just 1.7 per cent of incidents

Eye-catching crime statistics unearthed by the Liberal Democrats showed that almost 90 per cent of bicycle thefts reported to the police were closed without a suspect even being identified.

The Guardian's Peter Walker reported the political party's findings, including that just 1.7 per cent of reported bike thefts led to someone being charged.

The concerning statistics come from crime data for England and Wales between July 2021 and June last year, with the Lib Dems concluding that it is indicative of under-funded police forces lacking the resources to investigate crimes.

During the year, 74,421 bike thefts were reported to police — although the actual total number of stolen bicycles is likely to be much higher considering the public's sense of police apathy towards the crime.

> Three quarters of Brits don't expect police to bother investigating bike thefts

Of the near 75,000 reported stolen only 1,239 resulted in a charge or court summons, while 66,769 did not even see a suspect identified.

The Lib Dems' home affairs spokesperson called the figures "shocking" and concluded that "if your bike gets stolen, there's very little chance of ever seeing the thief caught and punished".

"Local police forces are overstretched and underfunded," Alistair Carmichael said. "They simply cannot do their jobs properly without the funding and officers needed to investigate crimes like this properly.

"The Conservatives talk tough on crime, but they cannot even get the basics right and are set to miss their own pledge to recruit 20,000 extra police officers by next March."

University College London bike thefts (London Cycling Campaign)

A Home Office spokesperson insisted more than 15,000 extra officers had been recruited and another 5,000 will be in place by March.

"We understand the distress and disruption bike thefts cause victims," they said. "We want offenders charged and brought to justice, therefore we are working with partners across the criminal justice system to increase the number of cases being charged and prosecuted, and to speed up the process."

Postcode lottery

The data showed disparity in how likely a successful police response was depending on location, with areas suffering fewer thefts tending to perform better.

While Sussex topped the inaction charts with 96.1 per cent of reported bike thefts resulting in no suspect being identified, the Metropolitan Police's area (94.8 per cent), Hampshire (94.2 per cent), Surrey (91.5 per cent) and Cambridgeshire (91 per cent) came close behind.

bike theft.JPG

Of the four forces with the lowest proportion of cases closed without a suspect, Dyfed-Powys, Cumbria, Durham and Gwent had fewer than 300 reported bike thefts during the 12-month period.

The idea of regional variation between police forces backs up an August investigation by the Telegraph newspaper which found that between June 2019 and May 2022 of the nearly 24,000 neighbourhoods to have suffered at least one bike theft, not one case had been solved in 87 per cent (20,900).

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

Similarly, the Lib Dems' most recent finding of the national average of 1.7 per cent for a suspect being identified and charged is marginally higher than the Telegraph's figure of 1.4 per cent in 2020, both down on the 2.8 per cent in 2016.

The latest analysis comes just days after cyclists riding in popular areas on the outskirts of Greater London were warned to be vigilant following reports that bike thieves are heading out of the capital to target riders.

Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at Cycling UK, said he believes the thieves are attracted towards 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 said. "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."

Cycling UK confirmed that the Metropolitan Police Service, Kent Police and Surrey Police are all aware of the growing problem.

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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