Why do people steal bikes, and how can you stop them? The Metropolitan Police has released this interview with a professional bike thief that provides some useful insights into how thieves operate and how you can deter them.
The force point out that there’s a lot of variation in the way thieves operate. Some target sheds, others communal hallways and some bikes which are locked in the street. Some are more ‘professional’ and cautious than others, but what is clear is the lengths some offenders will go to, to steal a bike.
Why steal bikes as opposed to other types of crimes?
I’ve always been comfortable with bikes, I can strip them down and put them back together really easily. You can take them places where you can’t take a car and stay of the beaten track so they’re easy to move around. I like the thrill of stealing them and I can make a lot of money. One week I made £7,500.
What did you do with all that money?
Blew it, bookies, weed, drunk for England, meals out.
On any given day, what would make you think ‘I need to go out and steal’?
I did it all the time, it’s what I did for a job. I’d go out every night for hours and hours. I’d go out during the day and do the spotting but all the stealing was done at night. Often I had orders, I knew loads of people, I was known as the ‘bike man’ and people would introduce me to someone who wanted a bike. The rest of it went on Gumtree.
How much planning did you do before you went out?
I’d often get the orders over the weekend and then go out during the week. I’d know where I wanted to hit and I’d do an area for a few days, Barnes for example, I caned it, but then you know the police will get themselves organised so I’d move on before that happened and go somewhere else.
Was it ever to demand? Were you asked to steal specific bikes?
I’d only steal decent stuff that I could get a return on. I’d rather go home empty handed than take rubbish. I sold a lot to foreign people, Poles for example, they all wanted bikes and I sold a lot to them.
Was it ever just taking an opportunity?
Not usually, I’d like to be careful. Go out in the dark, stay out of sight, I’d go nowhere that was covered by CCTV. I’d know pretty much where all the cameras were. I got caught by CCTV once at a school, but that was stupid and I didn’t make the mistake again.
How would you select an area/street?
I did mainly sheds. I’d have a bike out of the garden if people were stupid enough to leave it there, but mainly I was looking for sheds and I’d garden hop from one to the other. If there was a rear alleyway that would be useful because it kept me out of sight but it was also good to move the bikes that way.
What would make something an attractive target? What type of bike are you looking for?
The better the bike the better the return, so if I could get a really expensive model I’d take it, but I’d take anything that I could sell on and I was stealing lots.
What would put you off? Is there anything else that would make you change your plans?