Cyclists heading out into the countryside are being robbed for their high-end bikes by criminal gangs exploiting record lows in police detection rates, cycling bosses have warned.
Cycling UK, one of its biggest charities, has said there is growing evidence of criminals targeting cyclists traveling from London into the Kent and Surrey hills and they may have unknowingly revealed their plans on Strava. the app used by cyclists to map routes and timetables.
Duncan Dollimore, campaigns chief at Cycling UK, said the phenomenon was “on the radar” of all three police forces – the Met, Kent and Surrey – after a series of incidents in which cyclists were attacked for their bikes.
Alex Richardson, a 32-year-old professional cyclist, had his bike stolen by four masked attackers in London’s Richmond Park. He called it a “shocking experience” and urged other cyclists to be careful.
In June, two-time Scottish road racing champion Jennifer George revealed she was attacked twice by men on motorcycles while driving alone near Oxted in Surrey.
It followed up on several reports of a moped gang apparently targeting female only cyclists after a cyclist was detained and had his bike stolen during an attack near Warlingham in Surrey in April.
“It’s probably perceived as a low-risk crime if the number of people caught is that low. It can be seen as a high reward, low risk crime,” Dollimore said.
Home Office data shows that the proportion of bicycle thefts solved by police fell to an all-time low of 1.4% in the year to June, down from 3.3% in 2016. Nine out of 10 were closed without any suspects being identified.
Data, analyzed by the Telegraph, shows cyclists facing a lottery with the odds of a theft being solved ranging from just 0.3% in Lancashire – a one in 300 chance – to 5.4% – more than one in 20 – in Gwent .
Cycling UK believes many of the stolen bikes have been targeted by gangs due to the profits that would be made by selling them on second hand sites such as Gumtree and eBay. He is alarmed, however, by the latest trend of mounting bicycle snatchers on cyclists.
Mr Dollimore said: ‘There have been growing concerns about people cycling from London into the hills of Kent and Surrey who have been the victim of muggings or robberies. There are a limited number of routes people would cycle on outside of London.
“Someone posted on Strava what they are doing on their ride. Criminals will know it’s someone on a £3,000 to £4,000 carbon fiber bike who has unknowingly signaled the fact that they’re likely to be heading for Kent or the Surrey Hills. It’s on the police radar.”
Mr Dollimore said the charity recognized that bike theft would be a lower priority for police given conflicting demands on limited resources, but warned that much of it was organized crime where gangs took of target places like train stations where they could steal up to 30 bikes in 30 minutes.
“They mostly end up on second hand sites within 24 hours. It is a public misconception that he is a boy looking for a bicycle to steal.
Cycling UK believes police should direct their resources to the point of sale with officers focused on suspicious cut-price bulk sales on second-hand online auction sites. “Targeted action at the point of sale would be a more efficient use of resources,” Dollimore said.