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Richmond Park's Lib Dem MP blames Tory Government for “effectively decriminalising bike theft”

The MP said the Government was “content to let tens of thousands of thefts go unsolved every year”, after the party’s data showed 90% of bicycle thefts were closed by police with no suspect identified

Richmond Park MP Sarah Olney has accused the Conservative Government of “effectively decriminalising bike theft” after data uncovered by the Liberal Democrats showed that almost 90 per cent of cases were closed by the police with no suspect identified, while a thief gets charged in just 1.7 per cent of incidents.

The concerning crime statistics for England and Wales were published by the party in January, with the Lib Dems concluding that it is indicative of under-funded police forces lacking the resources to investigate crimes.

Now, Lib Dem Treasury spokesperson Olney has said: “For many Londoners, their bike is their prized possession, being used to commute, for exercise or to enjoy family days out. Yet, Home Office Ministers seem content to let tens of thousands of thefts go unsolved every year.

“These figures show the Conservative Government is effectively decriminalising bike theft in our local communities. We need to see a return to proper community policing, making our streets safer and ending this free-for-all for criminals.”

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

Oleny was elected to the Richmond Park constituency in a 2016 by-election after sitting MP Zac Goldsmith stood down to focus on his unsuccessful campaign as Conservative candidate for Mayor of London. Olney, who frequently posts herself cycling on social media, had urged cyclists in 2021 to slow down and think about the impact of their behaviour when riding in London's largest royal park.

The research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats shows that no suspect was identified in 89.2 per cent of the 77,201 cases, while there were charges in 1,071 (1.7 per cent) of thefts.

In London, 93 per cent of 15,899 bike thefts went unsolved, with only 136 cases resulting in a charge, making London’s police force the fourth worst for the total number of cases closed in the country, behind only Sussex, Hampshire and the British Transport Police.

A spokesperson for the Met Police said: “We take every incident of bicycle theft seriously and recognise the distress this crime causes its victims. When a report is received officers will carry out every reasonable line of inquiry to recover the property and bring any suspect to justice.”

“Anyone who owns a bicycle is urged to get it security marked and registered at BikeRegister – this helps officers return stolen property to its rightful owner, and it also helps to bring prosecutions.”

> Moped muggers rob cyclist of e-bike in London’s Richmond Park

Bike theft hotspot sign (Bikmo)

Meanwhile, Met Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has pledged to restore trust and faith in the force.cHowever he said officers could never “turn up to every single crime, and the public understand that”.

He added: “But something as severe as burglary needs a proper policing response. It’s too serious an intrusion not to have somebody turn up.”

However, Evening Standard’s Jack Kessler pointed out in a column that bike theft isn’t a minor offence. “Cycles are many people’s main mode of transport, while the crime disproportionally affects households with incomes below £10,000 and people aged 16-34, according to the Office for National Statistics,” he wrote.

“But if we want more people to cycle, as the Mayor does, both for health and climate reasons, we do need them to be able to keep hold of their bikes,” he added.

Keir Gallagher, a campaigns manager at Cycling UK, said: “Bike theft is sometimes perceived as a petty crime, but it carries a huge social impact, putting many people off cycling altogether. Local authorities, workplaces and businesses can do more to ensure everyone has access to secure cycle storage, but until criminals believe there is a genuine risk of being caught, this scourge will sadly continue.

“While we acknowledge the limitations on police resources, with more than half of stolen bikes being sold online, there is clearly scope for improved targeting of online marketplaces to identify and prosecute serial offenders and organised criminals.”

> Cyclist slams police who failed to act despite pictures showing bikes being stolen in broad daylight

The BBC reported one cyclist who had her bike stolen from Hammersmith despite “locking on a busy road directly under a CCTV camera” saying that the experience “deterred” her from cycling. She said she contacted the police who reviewed the CCTV footage, which showed two men stealing her bike, but officers soon closed the case deeming the footage not high quality enough.

“I now don't lock my bike on a public street as I know that if it goes missing, the police won't do anything about it. The police need to take bike thefts more seriously and catch the criminals behind it,” she said.

Last year, Faisal Islam, BBC’s economics editor had tweeted that his own bike with an internal tracker had been nicked in east London. However, a day after reporting it to the Met was informed by police that they were closing the case, despite the fact that he said the bike was “beaming its location”, and if they identified the vehicle police might have cracked an entire gang operation.

Bike thefts has been becoming more and more common, with cyclists getting their expensive bikes stolen with no support from the police in tracking them down, with many gangs using machetes, angle grinders and mopeds to not just steal parked bikes, but mug them directly off the rider.

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

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."

Adwitiya joined in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago
1 like

Sadly this is not a party political issue - none of them give a damn. If I was the LibDems I wouldn't throw stones when I live in a greenhouse. (Look at 2010-12)

Cugel | 1 year ago

In Toryland, where liberty is utter, we are encouraged to participate in the war of all-against-all so that social Darwinism may flourish as the "rightful" ideology, with  fatcats prospering at the top of the resultant greasy pole and the vast heap of writhing and struggling bodies of the losers below providing their stepping stones. Law & order is for nanny, who has become unfashionable.

So, the answer to having your bike stolen is now not the application of rozzer & beak but your chance to find a spiv from whom to buy someone else's stolen bike.  Who knows, you may get a bargain .... although its likely to be stolen later on, perhaps with menaces or even a trip to the local bone-mender.  (There will be no hospitals as these are nanny-things spoiling the process of purifying the population until they are a uniform swarm of consumer-locusts).

Anyway, what polis remain are for harrasing boys riding bicycles in places-verboten by the local Tory gestapo; or beating those with a social conscience until they go home to consume something for the spivs to steal, like good little subjects of Our (well, not ours at all really) Great Nation.


Fignon's ghost replied to Cugel | 1 year ago

Loved your speech.

I entirely agree. The droogs are in total control. Our stolen bikes are the perfect pub currency.

Down at your local Korova milk bar. You'll find all manner of goodies for sale...

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