PORTSMOUTH has been branded ‘unsafe’ by a couple keen to move back to the city after they fell victim to a gang of brazen bike thieves.
Diane Baldwin, 58, and her partner Martin Doughty were left shocked after crooks snatched Mr Doughty’s rare £1,500 bike in a daylight raid.
The couple had been visiting Diane’s daughter, Danielle Gilkes, of Bramble Road, Southsea, on Saturday when the crime happened.
The pair had locked their bikes up in Palmerston Road, Southsea.
But within minutes, thieves had sliced through Mr Doughty’s bike lock and stole his orange Kona ‘Jake The Snake’ cyclecross bike.
It comes as Hampshire Constabulary today revealed a surge in cycle thefts, with 30 bikes being taken since the start of the month.
There’s a big problem. I’m worried if the thieves aren’t caught the crime will escalate.Diane Baldwin
Mrs Bramble, of Leicestershire, said: ‘My partner is distraught. The bike was his pride and joy. He literally sleeps with it.
‘It’s only one of two in the whole country and it’s very distinctive.
‘It was like something from Gone in 60 Seconds. They left my cheaper bike and only went for his expensive one.
‘They cut through the lock and left nothing behind.’
She added: ‘We’ve been looking to move here as my family is from the city but now Martin doesn’t want to come to Portsmouth. He says the place isn’t safe.’
Steve Howard is the chief mechanic at Portsmouth Bike Exchange, in Victoria Road North, Southsea and says that a ‘professional gang’ was operating in Portsmouth.
Last month, The News reported how Brendan Hughes had his bike stolen in Palmerston Road – only to find it chained up there the next day.
Mr Howard said: ‘Portsmouth is one of the worst cities for bike thefts.
‘There are professional gangs going round in vans with disc cutters taking bikes. There’s nothing you can do about it.
‘We’ve had about 10 customers come to us in the past two weeks saying their bikes have been stolen.’
Mrs Baldwin says she spoke to PCSOs about the theft of her partner’s bike, who informed her police suspected who the culprits were and were working to catch them.
In a desperate effort to trace her partner’s bike, Mrs Baldwin took to social media.
Within days, she had been contacted by several other people who had also fallen foul to thieves.
‘People have told me bikes have been stolen from outside the D-Day Museum and at the Tesco in Fratton,’ she said.
‘There’s a big problem. I’m worried if the thieves aren’t caught the crime will escalate.’
Hampshire police confirmed that 30 bikes had been taken since the start of August – a 50-per-cent rise on the same period last year.
A spokeswoman for the force added: ‘There has been a rise in the number of bike thefts in Portsmouth.
‘Police are investigating a number of lines of enquiry and can confirm that we have had 30 reports since the beginning of August.’
People with details on the crimes can call police on 101.
Mr Howard has now given tips on keeping bikes secure which includes using a high-security D-lock and leaving bikes in busy public areas which is covered by CCTV cameras.