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 simple quote seems like a fairly simple idea but for some reason the trade in stolen goods including bikes seems just as prevalent.
A vast majority of bikes have a frame number stamped onto them when they are manufactured which is near as makes no difference unique (not even DNA can be considered unique), it’s this number that in a majority of cases can mean the difference of the police giving you a ring when they recover your bike to them selling your bike at the next police property auction.
If you haven’t already recorded your frame number! Taking a quick snap of it with your phone and sending it to your email address is enough and takes seconds. It will help prove ownership should your bike ever be stolen/recovered.
Yet incredibly I discovered that there is little or no routine sharing of data about stolen bikes between police forces, so all professional gangs need to do is to move them by the vanload a few miles to be at little or no risk of getting caught with or without frame numbers being available.
This is in my opinion the key and I’m campaigning through my service CheckThatBike! for the release of suspect frame numbers by police forces as open data, this would enable developers (including myself) to develop truly complete databases of stolen frame numbers for cyclists to check against. Whilst this wouldn’t eliminate the trade in stolen bikes overnight it would be the first step to stopping the blatant sale in stolen bikes.
There’s a few hurdles to overcome admittedly and a few common misconceptions but I think the benefit is clear and with bike theft costing the nation upwards of £1 billion a year (when all costs are taken into account) it needs to be taken seriously.
You can help!
Getting the police to take bike theft seriously and be open to the idea of transparency is an uphill struggle, it would help me greatly if you take 5 seconds to sign the petition calling for the release of data.
You can also help prevent theft by taking some steps to avoid handing over your money to bike thieves when buying a stolen bike, this checklist should help and CheckThatBike! is regularly updated with tips, advice and tools for doing just this.
A note about the author
Operating through Stolen Bikes UK, John Moss has founded various tools designed to put bike thieves on the back foot. Done out of a personal vendetta John has helped cyclists recover 100’s of bikes in the past two years.