BIKE thefts in York have rocketed to more than 2,000 a year – and only a fraction of the crimes are being solved.

New figures obtained by The Press show an average of six bikes a day are being stolen in the city – nearly twice as many as in 2009/10. But for every 14 bikes taken, only one is ever recovered.

Police say many of the thefts are “opportunist” and have again urged people to secure their bikes in the city centre.

In January, police said they expected bike thefts in 2010/11 to reach 1,600 – up from 1,120 in 2009/10. But statistics released to The Press show the figure between May 2010 and 2011 actually hit 2,173.

The figures, revealed under the Freedom of Information Act, also show the city’s worst hot-spots for bike crime.

Guildhall and Clifton were worst, with 386 and 200 thefts respectively, followed by Micklegate on 190 and Heworth on 188.

Hull Road (182), Westfield (139) and Huntington and New Earswick (130) were next on the list.

A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said: “We are aware of this increase in the theft of pedal cycles and have a number of ongoing operations to reduce these thefts, which are often opportunistic.

“We encourage people to help themselves becoming the victims of crime by securing their cycles with approved locks and ensuring that they are stored in a locked building when not in use.

“If owners have had their bikes security coded, this means that we are far more likely to be able to return them once recovered.”

The figures show only 70 people faced proceedings in relation to the 2,173 bikes stolen over the past 12 months, with 65 being charged and five being cautioned.

Police say they have worked with the Safer York Partnership to deter cycle thieves through crime prevention initiatives such as the Red Hand campaign. It sees tracker systems being secretly attached to bikes which are randomly displayed at cycle racks throughout the city and which allow them to be traced if they are stolen.

Cyclists in York also now have a dedicated cycle hub station next to Lendal Bridge, which offers secure parking for cyclists.

It was funded jointly by City of York Council and Cycling City York and is run by the Bike Rescue Project.

Bernie Cullen, who runs the project and sits on a strategy group to prevent bikes being stolen, said her main advice was for cyclists to get a good lock, adding: “If you buy a cheap lock, you may as well tie a bow on a bike.”

She said another cycling hub in the city centre which was able to open later than 6.30pm, the closing time of the Lendal Bridge hub, would be beneficial.

She also encouraged people to have their bikes tagged under the city-wide Operation Spoke, saying an employee at Bike Rescue, Jamie Atkin, 21, had had his bike stolen – and later recovered – after having his cycle marked.

Action demanded to thwart thieves

ONE cyclist who knows how quickly bike thieves can strike says he believes more needs to be done to thwart them.

Michael Thompson, 26, of Wilberfoss, left his bike locked at a rack outside York Station last month, but when he returned, he found the lock had been broken and his cycle was gone.

British Transport Police checked CCTV footage of the area, but Michael said he had been told the crime happened out of the cameras’ sight.

By chance, he discovered his distinctive bright pink bike a month later, abandoned outside the Oxfam bookshop on Micklegate, but he said more needed to be done to thwart thieves.

“When I spoke to police, they said finding my bike would be like finding a needle in a haystack because so many are stolen,” he said.

“I think York is quite old-fashioned when it comes to bikes and bike safety. You pretty much leave your bike chained to a metal pole, but in other cities there are plenty of secure bike parks where you pay to leave your bike in a safe place.”

Police are reminding cyclists in York to register their bikes. Since being launched in January 2010, Operation Spoke has marked almost 10,000 bikes with a security number and registered them with the national register, Immobilise.

This can be done at the Bike Rescue Project or at regular Operation Spoke events held throughout the city.

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Keeping a tag on cycle thieves

YORK likes to pride itself on being a cycling city.

Unfortunately, it’s also in danger of getting a reputation as a city of cycle thieves.

Bike thefts have soared in the last year. On average, six bikes are now being stolen every day – more than double the level of a year ago. For every 14 bikes taken, only one is ever recovered.

Guildhall ward – ie the city centre – is the worst hot-spot, followed by Clifton, Micklegate and Heworth.

If there is any good news, it is that there is no evidence of organised gangs of cycle thieves at work. Police stress that many of the thefts are opportunist.

Which means that at least there is something we can do about it.

Police have a number of ongoing operations to tackle the increasing number of thefts.

But bike owners can and should be doing more to protect their property. Some bikes, after all, are very expensive machines.

It is not enough simply to lock your bike. If you use a cheap lock, says Bernie Cullen of Bike Rescue, you might as well have tied on a nice bow inviting a thief to steal your bike.

So use a good-quality lock to deter the opportunists – and make sure that your bike is tagged. That way, even if it does get stolen, at least there is a decent chance you’ll get it back.

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