A bicycle symbol painted on a pavement

Lockdown bike thefts surge in London

Most south west London boroughs saw an increase in bike thefts during the first lockdown, with Sutton seeing the biggest rise, new data has revealed.

Lawtons, London-based criminal defence solicitors, released bike theft figures last month, with data spanning covering March to September 2020.

Statistics revealed in autumn last year that journeys by bike were up by 22% in Greater London and 7% in Inner London, compared to the previous count by TfL in spring 2019.

Nick Titchener, criminal defence solicitor at Lawtons Solicitors said: “Bike theft is definitely becoming more of a problem, and the numbers are a testament to this.

“Unfortunately, suspects aren’t being identified because there’s usually no relationship between themselves and the victim and it’s a relatively low-priority crime.”

The borough that saw the biggest rise in bike thefts was Sutton, jumping from 87 incidents to 114, a 31.03% rise.

The boroughs of Southwark and Wandsworth also saw big jumps, 23.92% and 20.66% increase respectively.

Southwark recorded 972 thefts over the first lockdown, in comparison to 764 bike thefts in the same period in 2019, while Wandsworth had 659 bike thefts in lockdown last year, and 546 in the previous period of 2019.

Richmond, Lambeth, Merton and Croydon all saw an increase in bike thefts as well – with 424 (up 7.6%), 662 (11.3%), 186 (1.1%) and 133 (8.1%) thefts over the spring-summer season of 2020.

The only south west London boroughs that saw a big decrease in bike thefts were Kingston upon Thames, with 235 cases over the first lockdown, down 30.7%, and Hammersmith and Fulham which saw a 30.4% drop to 475.

Kensington and Chelsea also saw a marginal 1.6% drop to 426 cases.

Lawtons speculated that the uptake in bike journeys during the first lockdown presented a prime opportunity for bike thieves, with many people buying bikes for leisure during those six months.

Metropolitan Police data indicates that only 1.1% of bike thefts result in a bike being returned and eventual prosecution.

Lawtons suggested that criminals are taking advantage of what was a seemingly “low-risk” crime. 

Titchener suggested that one of the reasons bike thefts were hard to prosecute was because owners tended to not document ownership of their bikes, so in the event a perpetrator was caught it made prosecution even harder.

He said: “It’s essential that you document your bike to help you recover it in the case of theft.

“Keep your receipt, make a record of the serial number and register your bike with a bicycle marking and registration scheme.”

Map of all London boroughs marked in blue or red.
Credit – Lawtons London Criminal Defence Solicitors

So, what can be done to improve bike security in London?

Waltham Forest Council released some tips on for how their residents can keep their bikes secure.

These include:

  • Use a heavy-duty D-lock that is ideally Sold Secure rated. Buy a lock that costs a third of the value of your bicycle.
  • Use two different high-quality locks. This would make it more awkward for thieves as they would have to use different types of tools to remove them. The council recommends a heavy-duty D lock and a robust chain or cable.
  • Lock both the frame and wheels to the cycle parking rack.
  • Secure your bike as close to the stand as possible. Your bike needs to be difficult to manoeuvre with no leverage points for thieves.
  • Take any quick release parts with you e.g. quick-release saddles and wheels.
  • Remove your lights.
  • Register your bike. The sticker will put thieves off. It will also make it easier to find, should it get stolen.

Chris Smith, Managing Director of Pendle Bike Racks, said: “Hopefully you will have registered your bike with BikeRegister and placed a security mark on your bike.

“The mark serves as a visible deterrent, because the owner of a marked bike can be traced, and the odds of arrest and prosecution, are significantly higher.”

Smith reminded people to lock all parts of a bike, not just the frame, to a bike rack with a top-quality lock.

He said: “If you happen to find your freshly stolen bike on a social media marketplace, resist the urge to go vigilante!

“As tempting as it might be to bang down the door and take back what is rightfully yours, the police are there for a reason.”

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