Old-fashioned policing, pin badges and ex-criminals - How officers are hitting back at bike thieves in Bristol

With more than four bike thefts happening each day in Bristol, BristolWorld reports on the approach police being taken by police

‘It is not rocket science - it is going back to good old fashioned policing’ - says Inspector Steve Davey, of Avon and Somerset Police, when asked how police are combating bike thefts in Bristol.

‘It is about being in a position to investigation, being out and about in the community, carrying out stop checks and following up enquiries,’ he adds.

Despite more than 1,500 bike thefts across Bristol over the last 12 months, Avon and Somerset Police has the highest rate of bringing charges against bike thieves than any other force in England and Wales, according the data published by The Sunday Times.

A total of 148 out of 793 completed investigations into bicycle thefts led to a suspect being charged (19%) since 2019 - more than three times higher than the next best forces; Lincolnshire and Dorset (6%).

Avon and Somerset Police urge cyclists to get their bikes marked through the Bike Registry scheme

But will this eventually lead to a fall in bike thefts in our city? Insp Davey thinks so.

He is part of Operation Remedy, a unit of officers set up in 2019 which in its remit to target burglary - as well as knife crime and drugs - began to deal with more and more thefts of bicycles from homes, garages and sheds.

Provided with time and resources to investigate each case, Insp Davey and his team have been able to pull off some impressive results. He gives a recent example of four juveniles responsible for 160 bike thefts who were recently charged after an 18-month investigation.

“Having a police officer spending the time to look at a case, carry out an investigation, review CCTV, go out doing house-to-house and encouraging people to report when they wouldn’t have previously - that’s what a lot of this comes downs to,” he says.

“The value of bikes has changed, an electric bike is in the thousands, which means they have become attractive to thieves, but if we continue our work and if we can encourage more people to get their bikes registered we can make a difference.”

In Bristol, more than 5,000 people have had their bike marked and registered with the Bike Register - a database officers can use to quickly identify a stolen bike at a property. If the bike isn’t registered, there is no proof it was stolen.

Officers hold action days in partnership with Bike Registry like this one at Bristol Temple Meads

The success of the scheme has also helped Insp Davey’s colleagues in the neighbourhood teams, where Tricia Tout, neighbourhood partnership delivery officer, has made it one of her priorities to reunite victims with their lost bikes.

“Nobody expects to get their bike back - but we’ve had instances where we’ve returned a bike back to someone before they even realised it was stolen, and that is down to the success of the Bike Register,” she says.

But unlike Insp Davey, Ms Tout has a few novel ways to help victims. Alongside encouraging cyclists to get their bikes registered, she oversees the award of uniform pins for each bike reunited with its owner and has even invited in a reformed bike thief to give a talk to officers on ‘how thieves think’.

“It can be a challenge, so anything we can do to get a step ahead, we try it,” she says.

“We want to make the bikes too hot to handle. No lock device is impenetrable with thieves using things like handheld electronic cutting devices. But the label markings put on bikes when they registered are near impossible to remove, and once on they can’t really be sold.”

One of the badges given to police officers who reunite stolen bikes with their victims

The neighbourhood teams also spends time gathering intelligence - a key in the recent success for police officers in securing the conviction of a prolific bike thief called Ryan Hack, who was captured on CCTV coolly removing a lock from a bicycle in Millennium Square in Bristol.

The theft took place on August 11 last year - a Tuesday night at 9.33pm - and after police reviewed the footage he was quickly identified. It came just a day after a member of the public spotted Hack stealing another bike from racks at Goal Ferry Steps, and letting officers know.

With their evidence, the officers went round to Hack’s home in Shirehampton Road in Sea Mills and arrested him. In his back garden were several stolen bikes.

Ryan Hack caught on CCTV removing a lock to a bike at Millennium Square in Bristol

On February 23, Hack was sentenced to 52 weeks in jail, and given a criminal behaviour order which will mean he cannot enter parts of Bristol city centre, including Broadmead and the Harbourside, when he is released.

Insp Adam Dolling, who was involved in the case, said: “We recognise bike theft is important to people in Bristol which is why we dedicate resources to thefts and, where we can, take action against those responsible.

“This was a good result - we aim for many more.”

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 one man’s call for reform on the sale of bolt cutters having had four bikes stolen in the past 10 years. We will also hear from a city MP and Wilko on the issue.

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