Tracking down cycle thieves

By Julia Thorley

Published: April 15, 2024

Cycle Thieves Image

4-minute read

An initiative in London - bike baiting - has proven to be a great way to track down a gang of cycle thieves. Along with cycle security marking, the tools are there to challenge cycle theft... let's take a look.

City of London Police has successfully used bait bikes to catch a gang of cycle thieves that had been operating in the Square Mile*. The bikes were fitted with trackers, then left in places known to be hotspots for cycle thefts. When the bikes were stolen they were tracked to the gang’s warehouse in East London. The operation revealed that the gang had stolen more than £100,000 worth of bikes over a two-year period. As a result of the arrests in 2020, eleven people have now been sentenced for their role in the thefts. The gang leader received a prison sentence of two years and nine months.

Prevention is Better than Cure
Will this tactic be trialed elsewhere?   Here in our own local area, there is no news as to whether Northamptonshire Police intends to use similar tactics to crack down on bike thefts in our county, but its website offers the suggestion that the two most important things are to double lock your bike whenever you leave it unattended, with a good-quality lock, and to register the frame number on a national bike registration database approved by Secured by Design* , such as Bike Register*. The number is usually found between the pedals or where the back wheel slots in to the frame.

The theory is that a recovered bike can be traced back to its owner if it is registered. You can also use this database to check ownership if you buy a second-hand bike. It’s a good idea, too, to have your bike security marked, and labelled as such, so would-be thieves are deterred.

Take a photo of your bike and keep a note of your frame number too. It will be useful if you have to report a theft.

Bike information sheet

If Your Bike is Stolen
Report the theft as soon as you can. The quicker the police know about it, the greater the chances of it being recovered. This is where you’ll be glad you have a photo and a note of the frame number, because this will help the police identify you as owner, should your bike be recovered. It’s important to report the theft, not least because it helps the police build up a picture of hotspots. You will also need a crime number if you wish to claim the loss from your insurers. You can log your theft with Stolen Bikes in the UK* , too, a website that can spread the word about your missing cycle and offer advice on how to get it back.
The sad fact is that in an average year, there are over 77,000 bicycle thefts in England and Wales – and this is the number of thefts reported. The actual total could be higher. Unfortunately, in 2022/23 only 11% of stolen bikes were returned to their owners. It’s worth noting, too, that although 31% of stolen bikes were taken from the street, 45% were stolen from the owner’s home*.

Take Action
There is some evidence that bike thefts are declining. Whether this is because riders are taking more care over security and making things harder for potential thieves or because initiatives such as bait bikes are having an impact it’s hard to say. For now, though, the advice remains the same: register your bike and don’t leave it unattended without locking it up, even if it’s in your garage.

Local Call - Get Marked!

If you are local to Brightwayz in Kettering, or in the area, you can bring your bike along to our active travel hub on the last Saturday of every month, 10am to 4pm, for free cycle security marking using the Bike Register permanent sticker method. We also offer free indoor manned cycle parking during opening hours and often have free cycle service sessions running then too. The hub is in the side rooms of the Royal Hotel, Market Place, Kettering and everyone is welcome to come along even if just to have a chat about active travel related opportunities and pick up a free local cycle map.

Planter Cycle rack filled with wild flowers and 2 Bikes locked up. Locked up bike Thief breaking a bike lock


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