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Five smart takes on bicycle security

It is a known fact that bicycle theft is a huge problem. According to the Cyclists’ Touring Club, 381,000 bikes were stolen from April 2014-March 2015 in England and Wales. However, bicycle locks have mostly stayed the same. Until now. In recent years, several start-ups around the world have proposed a paradigm shift: intelligence, not force, is the key to keeping your bike safe.  We are witnessing a trend in cycling: smart locks, ranging from Bluetooth-enabled U-locks to small, silent alarms, are beginning to chance the way we think about bicycle security. Today, we’ll analyse five of these intelligent solutions. They are not the only ones on the market, but each represents a different approach on stopping bicycle theft. 1. Noke At first glance, Noke looks like your average U-lock. Except for the beautiful design, of course, which you probably won’t find in any other U-lock. However, there’s more than meets the eye. Noke is Bluetooth-enabled and has a sound alarm. This means that whenever someone tries to steal your bike, the loud alarm will be triggered, and you will be notified on your smartphone. In addition to this, it also has some nice features. You can share access with your friends using the mobile app. Moreover, you can revoke access without needing to track down keys. The Noke was built to withstand harsh weather conditions. All its buttons, sensors and batteries are stored internally and protected with silicon rings. Pros: Strong and durable, has a steel alloy housing Has a loud alarm to deter thieves Easily share access to your bike Five years standard battery life, 6 months with...

Metropolitan Police Release Stolen Bike Data

The Metropolitan Police force has been a huge target for our campaign to lobby police forces to release information about stolen bikes, simply due to almost 20% of. Finally after over 2 years of meetings and almost six months of back and forth around a single Freedom of Information, I’m happy to say that our request has been met and we have been provided with data relating to stolen bikes over the last five years (up to Sep 2014, when we made the original request). This puts the total searchable frame numbers from police data on Check That Bike! at 64,000 (24,000 from the met) which easily makes it the largest stolen bike database in the UK, especially when you look at the other services we work with who add to that pool of data. Over the next couple of days I will be issued FOI requests to bring all the below forces up to date, and for those forces not on this list because they refused on time limit grounds (no automated way to extract the data) we will be issued a request for a very small sample.   Police Force Status Data Avon and Somerset Data Provided (Processed) Last Update: 06/10/2014 01/08/2008 to 01/10/2014 Total Imported Records: 1748 Bedfordshire Data Provided (Processed) Last Update: 27/11/2014 01/01/2009 to 31/10/2014 Total Imported Records: 438 British Transport Police *Estimate, general description field used to record frame numbers Data Provided (Processed) Last Update: 13/10/2014 18/09/2009 to 17/09/2014 Total Imported Records: 2623 Cambridgeshire Data Provided (Processed) Last Update: 08/10/2014 01/01/2009 to 01/10/2014 Total Imported Records: 3683 Cheshire Data Provided (Processed) Last Update: 27/11/2014 01/04/2011 to...

I’ve found my bike…. what next?

Fantastic you’ve found your bike for sale on one of the many online sites but what should you do now to maximize the chance of getting that bike back home. The Basics First things, first. Take some screenshots and notes, just encase the advert is taken down. You reported it to the police originally right? Phone them back using 101, provide your crime reference number and any details about the advert. When you speak to an officer you need to convince them the advert is your bike, if you can’t convince them of this then they won’t waste resources on it. Be aware that officers like anyone else work shifts so you might not get an instant response. Further steps Sometimes the police aren’t as helpful as they could be either they say they don’t have the time or they don’t even bother responding what so ever, if that happens we have a few tricks up our sleeves that you can think about.. Arrange to buy the bike, make sure it’s a very public place or an address. Once you have this contact the police again and see if they are more helpful… Still no luck? If your city based you can arrange to meet them at a tube/train station (with an open Transport Police station) attached. Around half an hour before your due to meet, go to the station and talk to the officers and see if they are willing to help. Failing that get in touch, john@stolen-bikes.co.uk Remember! Never, ever! go to meet a seller without the police. At the end of the day you are dealing with a...

Surrey Police Fail

So on your average week I’ll be contacted by a few people who have been fortunate enough to have found their bike for sale but the police aren’t being as helpful as they could be. That’s business as usual for me and we have a few tricks up our sleeves to encourage the police to act but one case that occurred last week really stood out for me as a demonstration of why services like mine are needed and how big of a let down the police can be (once again their are fantastic officers in nearly every force but occasionally the system really lets victims of crime down). The text of our email exchange is below, some details have been removed to protect identities. Essentially Surrey Police failed to connect a found bike to a reported theft even though it was found less than 100 yards from the original crime scene and the owner provided a frame number. Email Dear John,   I found a condor bike in a hedge a month ago. its worth thousands of pounds and the lock and tool kit were still intact, so it was obviously stolen I took the bike home for safe keeping and contacted surrey police who refused to collect it. I therefore made a found-property report and was told that the police would check their records and contact me if it was reported lost/stolen.   Having  heard nothing for a month, yesterday I went to condors in central London and attempted to trace the owner via the frame number. This was not possible, but they recommended your site. I looked at your...

Bike Thieves – Who Are They?

It is estimated that more than 500,000 bicycles are stolen every year in England and Wales. It’s clearly a problem on a massive scale, which is why we developed our lightweight and secure bike lock, but who are these thieves and what happens to the stolen bikes? While there is little published data on bicycle thieves, a 2011 publication by Transport for London and the Metropolitan Police Service suggests that the average London offender is male,16- 25 years of age and operates in loose gangs. He trades stolen bicycles for cash or goods, and is willing to travel three or four miles to areas of high unattended bicycles. From their research of cycle theft offenders, 90 per cent have a history of criminal activity prior to arrest. Thieves then sell the stolen bikes at street markets and through online portals. It isn’t clear the proportion of stolen bikes sold on the street versus online, but the police in London are focused on disrupting both these resale points. What’s more, the police aren’t safe either. According to this Freedom of Information (FOI) request the Cambridgeshire Constabulary had seven or eight bicycles nicked in the 2012/2013 financial year. Thankfully, most of them were recovered. Why bicycle theft is so prevalent The Metropolitan Police Service believes cycle theft is attractive to offenders because it’s a low risk, high reward crime. Setup costs for thieves are low as tools aren’t expensive, and it doesn’t require much training or knowledge to steal a bike. Priceonomics, an organisation that helps companies with data, echoes these sentiments. In an article about stolen bikes in the United...

40,000 stolen bikes and counting

As many of you will be aware we have been campaigning for the last two years to get stolen bike data from the police into public hands, so services like our own Check That Bike! can check against police lists. To the surprise of no one I got nowhere with a softly softly approach so late last year we used the ace up our sleeves (FOI requests) and have now received data from 28 of the 43 police forces in the UK. This has given us the frame numbers of 40,000 stolen bikes, to put that in perspective the service currently recommended by the Police has 4,296 stolen bikes almost ten times less than we have gathered in the six months since we stopped treating the police with kid gloves. To keep with our promise to be open and transparent about these things below are the releases we have and we will be keeping this table updated on the Check That Bike! website as we go along. Police Force Status Data Avon and Somerset Data Provided (Processed) Last Update: 06/10/2014 01/08/2008 to 01/10/2014 Total Imported Records: 1748 Bedfordshire Data Provided (Processed) Last Update: 27/11/2014 01/01/2009 to 31/10/2014 Total Imported Records: 438 British Transport Police *Estimate, general description field used to record frame numbers Data Provided (Processed) Last Update: 13/10/2014 18/09/2009 to 17/09/2014 Total Imported Records: 2623 Cambridgeshire Data Provided (Processed) Last Update: 08/10/2014 01/01/2009 to 01/10/2014 Total Imported Records: 3683 Cheshire Data Provided (Processed) Last Update: 27/11/2014 01/04/2011 to 30/09/2014 Total Imported Records: 928 City of London Police Data Provided (Processed) Last Update: 14/10/2014 01/01/2009 to 31/12/2013 Total Imported Records: 140...

London Based? We need you!

As I’m sure you are aware bike theft is a huge problem for cyclists throughout the country and often named as the second biggest reasons cyclists give up (behind Road Safety). In fact with 25% of victims giving up and a further 66% cycling less, 20,000 cyclists would have given up last year because of bike theft in the capital alone. Worse still is that because of the “safety in numbers” effect this is having a negative influence on cycling safety. I’m writing this today because I need your support, you see I’m currently campaigning for the police to openly release the frame numbers of stolen bicycles. This would give the public access to the information they need to avoid buying stolen goods and dramatically alter the dynamic that allows the trade in stolen bikes to thrive. To date 28 police forces have chosen to provide data relating to 40,000 frame numbers and together with property registers and insurers this data forms the country’s largest free to access stolen bike database by a large margin. This has led to over 2,000 suspected stolen bikes being identified through our Check That Bike! service in the first 12 months. Unfortunately despite our success and the fact that other police forces have provided data, the Metropolitan Police have disputed the public benefit to releasing the data and refused to provide the dataneeded by the service to operate effectively in London. It’s not over yet though, we have the option to appeal the decision with ICO and so we need cycling organisations to provide us with a letter of support that we can utilize to show public...

Insurance vs Real Life by the Statistics

So STW has recently published a snapshot of data from the insurer ProtectYourBubble, as some of the statistics present an entirely different picture to what official statistics actually say I thought it would be interesting to look at how insurance figures can actually differ from the “real” picture and update our statistics page whilst I’m at it. Most popular brand of bike stolen I don’t think these statistics are particularly interesting as they don’t account for a brands relative popularity (i.e there are more Specialized bikes out there, so of course more get stolen) but none the less I ran the Metropolitan Police figures against Protect Your Bubble’s and found that indeed Specialized is the number 1 brand in the UK (for both buying a bike and stealing one). Source: Metropolitan Police Data for Make/Model of Stolen Bikes (via FOI) What is interesting though is that a whopping 27% of people couldn’t identify the brand of their stolen bike to the police (or it wasn’t recorded). Average value of a stolen bike Protect Your Bubble say that “The average cost of a stolen bike was £974.80“, whilst the Home Office reduces that figure down to £337. Source: Crime in England and Wales Survey, 2013/14 I’d put the difference down to people being more likely to insurer their £1,000 bike. Type of locations bikes are stolen Protect Your Bubble say “Of those who claimed for a stolen bicycle, 72% had it stolen from a location other than their home, while 23% had their bicycle stolen from their home.” (not sure what happened to the other 5%). The Home Office statistics are almost reversed with 68% of bikes...

Comment Trolls

In Leicester we’ve been lucky enough for the last two years to have a mayor in power with the stomach to install some cycling infrastructure (even if that infrastructure is a bit of a wet fish), unfortunately this has lead to the usual rants from various drivers about how they are being hard done by the “free loading cyclist”. So fed up of constantly explaining why various bits of their arguments are complete bollocks, I’ve decided to simply link them directly to the counter points. You Said: I pay road tax, cyclists are freeloaders Okay first of all it’s not road tax it’s Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) but let’s ignore that little argumentative col de sac. You pay VED not for the right to use the road but the right to use a car that emits pollution above what the government has decided is a reasonable level, there are plenty of cars you can buy the emit minimal amounts of pollution and so don’t pay any VED. As a cyclist emits no pollution, they pay no VED. You Said: All cyclists are law breakers Whilst I will concede that a section of cyclists do seem to ride on the pavements or jump red lights, car drivers are hardly coming at this with clean hands often speeding or parking on the pavements. Let’s not forget the relative danger a car represents when compared to a bike. In addition there are law breakers in every group of society it shouldn’t be used to dictate investment otherwise our motorway network would be non existent. You Said: I saw a cyclist he wasn't wearing a helmet/highviz Nor do...

10 seconds to make your bike traceable

Patrick Colquhoun wrote in 1796 in A Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis “deprive a thief of a safe and ready market for his goods, and he is undone”, this quote seems like a fairly simple idea but for some reason the trade in stolen goods including bikes seems just as prevalent. There is a way to help police (and members of the public) trace your stolen bike should the worst happen and all it involves is 10 seconds of your time. So what is this magical trick? It’s simply recording your frame number. This number is near as makes no difference unique to your bike (remember not even DNA can be considered truly unique) and stamped into most bikes underneath the bottom bracket when it’s manufactured. Despite this very few people take the time to actually bother and last year we asked 600 cyclists why? Well 62% said that they simply hadn’t got round to it with others not believing it would make a difference anyway or simply being unaware of its existence. Hadn’t got round to it? If you have the time you can attend a police registration event which involves recording the details on a property register and placing a tamperproof sticker on the bike, some forces (like the Metropolitan Police) do this for free and other forces make a small charge (£8 in the case of Avon & Somerset Police). You can find more information about local registration events by contacting your local force. This sounds like a lot of effort though and indeed I haven’t attended one of these events. A much quicker...

Check That Bike! Campaign FAQ

So as part of my campaign I’ve been campaigning for the release of stolen bike frame numbers through the use of open data principles. There are a few frequently asked questions so I thought I’d make a post to address them. Don't the police have access to a national database of stolen bike police reports? No such database exists not even for a police force, a stolen bike police report is logged onto a database that is only searched within that police forces area. This means that thieves can steal a bike from one county and moved to another county by the van load to essentially become untraceable. Several people seem to be under the belief that BikeRegister, Immobilise, NMPR or various other registers offer such a database but this simply isn’t the case. Not many cyclists record their frame number? This is unfortunately true but my opinion is that by making a national database of stolen bike frame number available to both the public and the police, you show just how useful a frame number can be and bring the public’s awareness to its existence. As the service becomes more popular, more people record their frame numbers, as more people do that the data quality improves, you can then rinse and repeat this process until a majority are recording frame numbers. How people go about recording that frame number doesn’t exactly matter much but I am planning to release a service that will drastically change the market, with various new features that will either be free to use or near to cost price (in the case of ways...

Do the police take bike theft seriously?

What follows is just my opinion based on two years of working to tackle bike theft and helping victims get their bikes back. It is not meant to be seen as an attack on any force and is simply a summary based on what I’ve learnt. I want to say before I get started that there are some fantastic individuals in police forces who genuinely have the right idea. I’ve met officers that have dedicated themselves to reducing bike theft (in one case for the last 5 years of their career), the Met even have a dedicated taskforce who deal with bike crime although they are often over stretched in my personal experience. What I say below shouldn’t reflect on these individuals who are IMO overworked and under thanked, it is instead made to address policing in general. So just why do I believe bike theft isn’t taken seriously? Personal Experience I started Stolen Bikes UK after my own bike was taken in a burglary, the responding officer (the one who searched my house with me, when I came home to my door broken in) could not have been nicer and more helpful. The bike was stolen with a bright fluorescent large biking rucksack, so surely easy enough to spot on CCTV.  However under 48 hours later my case was closed by a detective, the reasoning? They asked the nearest local business if they have CCTV which they didn’t. I live in a city centre flat, yes the nearest business doesn’t have CCTV but every street is covered by CCTV due to my proximity to a prison, a young...

Participants needed for study into bicycle theft

We’ve been contacted by one of our readers to ask for help in recruiting participants for a study into bicycle theft. Ryan Dunn, a post-graduate anthropology student at University College London, would like to interview recent victims of bicycle theft for his Master’s degree research project. During the interview you will be asked questions about the relationship you had with your lost bicycle, the manner in which the bicycle contributed to your self-identity, and how you were affected by its theft. Each interview should take between 20-30 minutes, and can be done via phone, Skype or in person at University College London. Interviews will be confidential, and all participants will have their names changed if included in the final report. If you have been a victim of bicycle theft in the past six months, and are interested in participating or have any questions then please contact Ryan Dunn at ryan.dunn.13@ucl.ac.uk,...

Burglars and bike thieves will always be looking to offload their loot on sites like Gumtree and eBay. We urge the public to take precautions when purchasing a cycle from social media sites. Always ask for proof of purchase and meet in a public place.

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Richmond MPS put Thief behind bars…

A bike thief who tried to sell a stolen cycle on Gumtree has landed a 12 week prison sentence. On Thursday 31st October Richmond police were alerted by the victim of a burglary that her bike was being sold on Gumtree. The bike, a £500 Specialized Ariel cycle was being advertised for £200 under the guise that the seller stated he was moving to Australia. Officers from the Richmond Burglary Team arranged to meet the seller purporting to be an interested party that same day at Asda in Roehampton. Plain clothes officers attended the store and waited for the seller to turn up and after a brief struggle at the front of the store police arrested two suspects and recovered two stolen cycles. The Specialized cycle was returned to the rightful owner the same day much to her relief. Nathan Crane of Battersea pleaded guilty at Wimbledon Magistrates Court the next day for Handling Stolen Goods and was sentenced to three months in prison. Detective Sergeant Chris Brown from Richmond CID said: We will pursue burglars and bike thieves wherever we can however, please help yourself not to become a victim of crime and always secure your cycle with a strong lock and where possible keep it hidden away out of sight. But is that all I managed to track down the advert this press release was referring to and a simple Google search of the phone number (07770226513) shows adverts for at least 4 other bikes in the past couple of months (other than the two he was found in possession of). It concerns me that these bikes...

Securing Your Bike

If you’ve just got a new bike it’s really important that you take some of the below tips to heart with most new bikes being stolen within 2 years and a vast majority of those never being recovered there is a very real chance that if you don’t take action your bike will end up on the front page of this website or others like it. Record your bikes details So you’ve just got your new bike, it’s nice and shiny and it’s sunny outside, time to go for ride? Stop! There are a few vital details you can record that dramatically increase the chances of recovering your bike should it ever be stolen.  Read more about recording your bikes details Lock your bike… PROPERLY! Welcome to the arms race! Unfortunately no lock on the market can resist a determined bike thief so the object of locking your bike properly is simply to make the thief look elsewhere for easier pray. Get the right lock See those cable locks? walk right past them and go for a Dlock which are much harder to defeat without the use of power tools. I personally recommend the Kryptonite New Yorker, which comes with a anti-theft guarantee. Location, location, location Try to find dedicated bike racks in busy areas that are covered by CCTV, the more bikes using it the better. Use your lock correctly If you don’t use your lock correctly you may as well have not bothered. Ensure that you at the very least include a major part of the frame, try to include one wheel as well, and if you...

Registering Your Bike

With most new bike sold being stolen within 24 months, it’s really important to take down a few essential details of your bike that will drastically improve the odds of your bike being returned should the worst happen. The minimum of details you should take are Make and Model of Bike Frame Number (usually found near your pedals, often on the bottom of the frame). Any scratches, marks or parts that makes your bike unique If possible take a photo as well There are several services (listed below), which assist you with taking all the relevant details. Alternatively if you wish to do it yourself, you can just write down the details or simply email the details to yourself for safe keeping. Immobilise Immobilise is a property register, widely adopted by police forces in the UK. Whilst it’s business practices are morally questionable, it’s wide adoption means that it’s well worth using to register your bike. BikeShepherd Bike Shepherd is a easy to use bicycle specific register, whilst it hasn’t been adopted by any police forces. It is the only bicycle register that also publicizes your bike should it go missing (excluding ourselves). BikeRegister For various reasons I can’t go into, I don’t recommend Bike Register to...

Nominate us for a BikeBiz Award

I’ve been operating Stolen-Bikes.co.uk (and its sister site findthatbike.co.uk) for just over a year and in that time I’ve seen many bikes returned to their rightful owners (and hopefully many more to come, if yours is recovered please let me know the story as I’m always happy to hear them). I’m not a multimillion pound company, just a bike theft victim who holds a grudge, so I’m even happier with the results that I’ve been told about (although I’m not finished sticking it to bike thieves just yet). I’m sending this email out because I’m currently competing for a top Bicycle Industry Award, I believe that it would be a massive boost for the websites and also help me talk with retailers and manufacturers about why they should take bike crime seriously and what they can do to help combat bike theft once and for all. To this end you can help me win the award! To nominate the Stolen Bikes UK for this award all you need to do is email bikeawards@intentmedia.co.uk with one or two sentences explaining why you think we should win it. Nominations need to be in by July 2nd. This is a massive industry award, so I’ll be up against huge brands, every nomination counts! I’m competing in the BEST USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA category (the only one that’s really relevant), please include this in your email as well as a link to our website so they know who your nominating. Okay but what exactly have you done with social media? I setup stolen bikes last year in May after my own bicycle was...

An appeal to local bike shop owners

Please, please…. please stop selling cheap chain/cable locks! In a recent June issue of a magazine aimed at the UK bike industry (shall remain nameless) I was horrified to see that these locks continue to be sold despite not being fit for purpose no matter how you look at it (there not even suitable as cafe locks). Seriously, these locks just leave cyclists feeling that their bike is safe outside when in reality as the below video demonstrates they may as well not have bothered using it. With one cable lock holding up for a grand total of 1 second under the strain of a £3 pair of pliers. Now here are some reasons you should care… You can use the opportunity to upsell a better (Sold Secure Gold Rated) lock Police forces usually suggest cyclists look to spend at least £40 or 20% of the value of their bike on a decent Dlock If you sold a cyclist a cheap cable lock that gets broken, then they will associate the negative experience with your shop Your helping solve a problem that effects 415,000 cyclists every single year Many bike theft victims give up cycling, meaning one less potential customer in your area It’s important to remember that cyclists come to local bike shops often for the better service and advice, by selling these locks that aren’t fit for purpose  your undermining that sentiment and missing a chance to give out some excellent security advice that results in you selling a more expensive lock....