Revealed: Bristol bike theft hotspots identified as BristolWorld launches week-long focus

We have published an interactive map showing the locations of bike thefts last year - and the status of each police investigation

More than four bicycles are stolen every day in Bristol - 1,561 recorded thefts over the past year to be exact, according to Avon and Somerset Police.

It is a crime which targets the rich and poor, and has fed on a pandemic-induced cycling boom with the heightened value of bikes making them a more profitable, easier alternative to stealing cars for thieves armed with cutting devices which can be purchased from Argos.

A recent survey of 1,200 people by Bristol Cycling found that bike theft was the second biggest barrier for people riding a bike in the city, just behind concerns over road safety. Group members say it can be expensive and distressing for the victim, and can impact their ability to see friends and family, or even get to work.

It is why BristolWorld today launches a week-long series of stories focusing on the subject which will feature an insight into police work combatting the seemingly perennial problem through interviews.

We will also hear from two victims - both with very different stories - and a bike shop in the city. We also have astonishing CCTV footage of a prolific bike thief finally caught and subsequently banned from the large parts of the city centre.

Bike thefts are rife in some areas of the city - we spoke to police to find out why

Today we start with the data - both publicly available and provided by Avon and Somerset Police - which not only shows the extent of the crime in Bristol but also reveals the hotspots for bike thefts in our city.

Over the past 12 months, the force told BristolWorld that 1,561 bikes were recorded as stolen in Bristol. And although that figure was down 137 from the 12 months previously, it still made up 62% of all bike thefts in the force area, which includes Taunton, Weston-super-Mare and Yeovil.

There are also the street-level figures for bike thefts in 2021, which are publicly available from police.data.uk. After being analysed by our data team, they showed a small number of areas make up for most of the thefts in the city.

At the top is the city centre where almost a third of the city’s bike thefts took place last year. Next it was Bristol Temple Meads, then Kingsdown and Stokes Croft which includes Cotham, followed by Bedminster.

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“These are areas with a high volume of bikes,” said Tricia Tout, neighbourhood and partnership delivery officer at Avon and Somerset Police.

“There are colleges, a university and it is largely in the centre of Bristol where bikes are locked outside but on view to potential thieves who can break a lock and steal in as little as two and a half minutes.”

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Ms Tout says the rise in value of bikes has made them more attractive than cars to thieves. And she says what they use are items such as handheld electronic cutting devices which can be purchased on the High Street.

In response to the thefts, the neighbourhood police team is taking some novel approaches such as inviting a reformed bike thief to explain to officers ‘how a thief thinks and what they look out for’, as well as providing more crime prevention support to the public.

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The force has also stepped up its work in catching bike thieves with part of the work of Operation Remedy - a unit of 70 officers set up with money initially levied from council tax precept - focusing on bike thefts.

Since 2019, figures published by The Sunday Times earlier this month showed 19% of cases led to a suspect being charged - the highest proportion of any force in the country.

However, of the 579 bike thefts recorded in Bristol in 2021 for which outcome information was stated, the vast majority were still ‘under investigation’. This is perhaps understandable given the time it takes to progress a police investigation.

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Among those incidents which led to a result for the force was the theft of several bikes by Ryan Hack between June and September. He was jailed for 52 weeks, and will also be banned from entering parts of the city centre on his release

Combine the figures above with case outcomes and the map below shows the status of investigations by area in 2021.

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Part of police work to target bike thefts in hotspot areas in Bristol is to encourage bike users to mark their bikes and register them with Bike Register, a database which can be used to identify stolen bikes, and even reunited them with the owners.

Next month, officers will be holding events for people to register their bikes at Broadmead/Castle Park on April 11, College Green on April 12, The Downs, on April 13, Sainsbury’s at Gloucester Road on April 14 and Horfield Leisure Centre on April 16.

Tomorrow (March 22) we will report on how police caught a prolific bike thief operating in the city centre with CCTV footage showing how quickly the criminal could steal a bike.

Do you have a story to tell about your bike being stolen? Email us at [email protected]