GANGS of teenagers as young as 14 are thought to be behind a massive hike in bike crime blighting Portsmouth.
Police say cycle thefts have soared since students returned to school and university after the summer holidays – with officers receiving at least 28 reports in the last month.
Bike thefts traditionally rise at this time of year, but police say the hike is worse than in some previous years.
Youths are thought to be using bolt croppers to destroy ‘liquorice lace locks’ – even fleeing with the lock as well as the bike to avoid leaving any fingerprints.
Officers say they are doing all they can to help prevent and detect bike crime, offering free security marking, D-locks for a discounted rate, crime prevention advice and urging owners to register their bike details online.
Acting Inspector Rob Sutton said: ‘For certain criminals it’s easy money.
‘We are finding it’s really young teenagers through to adults who are committing these cycle thefts. We are looking at youths as young as 14 to 15 years old involved in it, and it’s easy money unfortunately, unless you have a D-lock.
‘They know they can either pull locks apart or bolt crop them off.
‘They take the locks with them because forensically they don’t want their fingerprints left behind.’
Bike theft reports are down by almost a fifth from 617 between April and September last year to 496 in the same period this year.
But cyclists are urged to be extra vigilant to avoid becoming victims.
Sgt Sutton added: ‘Cycle theft is lower than for the same period last year.
‘They were 496 between April and September this year compared to 617 in the same period last year.
‘People must be sick of us tweeting about D-locks but if you are going to spend, £700, £800, £900 on a bike, then don’t go and buy yourself a liquorice lace.
‘They say you should spend 10 per cent of the value of your bike on your lock but we can do better than that a £20 D-lock from the police station.
‘Also when your bike is at home in the shed, D-lock it because shed breaks happen all the time.
‘We also run security marking and we have opened it up to businesses and schools.
‘I wouldn’t be surprised if the thieves live just outside the city in the neighbouring towns. We are finding it’s very local, and the ones we have caught so far and the evidence we have gathered show it is definitely local Portsmouth youths.’
Working in partnership with Hargroves Cycles, police have sold about 2,500 of D-locks since offering them at a discounted rate of £20 each last year.
But officers are also offering simple crime prevention advice to help owners keep their cycles safe.
Tips include removing detachable lights and registering property at hampshire.police.uk/immobilise to increase the chances of them being reunited with their bike of it is stolen.
Other advice includes keeping bikes inside and out of view where possible at home, preferably secured to an immovable object or floor or wall-mounted anchor lock.
Owners are also encourage to note the make, model and frame number and take a photo of themselves with their bike.
Call Hampshire police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.
Chance to win a D-lock
Thanks to Hampshire police and Hargroves Cycles we have five Kryptolok Series 2 ATB cycle locks to give away to readers.
Then send a tweet to either address beginning ‘I want a #dlock because’ and completing the sentence in your own words.
Entries must be in by midday on Monday, October 8.
Five winners will be chosen at random in a draw and winners will be notified on Twitter, in The News, on portsmouth.co.uk, on Express FM and on the Hampshire Police website at hampshire.police.uk on Tuesday, October 9.
For full competition terms and conditions see hampshire.police.uk