Shock as train stations in Fareham and Fratton among the worst for bike thefts in UK
THIEVES are stealing almost three bikes a week from railway stations across the area, shocking new figures have revealed.
Over the past three years, 698 bikes have been snatched from 15 stations around Portsmouth, with Fareham’s branded Britain’s third-worst for theft.
Elsewhere, stations in Fratton, Havant and Chichester have been named among the 25 worst in the UK out of the 1,245 recorded.
Campaigners have lashed out at the authorities for failing the hundreds of victims in the area.
The Department for Transport vowed to improve security and install more CCTV to keep bikes safe. While transport police and rail firms have pledged more action to stop crooks.
But Ian Saunders, chairman of the Portsmouth Cycle Forum, said the theft rates must be tackled as soon as possible.
He felt the situation was getting out of hand and said: ‘This is antisocial, criminal behaviour and is a sad indictment of a society hit by austerity cuts.
‘Nowhere is safe in the city. You would have to be crazy to leave your bike for five minutes without locking it up – it will get stolen.’
Figures received from the British Transport Police show, apart from London, the south east is targeted by bike thieves more than anywhere else in the country.
In all some 16,725 bikes have been stolen from railway stations over the past three financial years.
While across the south east 6,988 bikes were stolen from 288 train stations during the same period
Fareham was the worst locally, with 152 cycles snatched – increasing from 39 in 2016-17 to 60 over the following financial year and 53 in the last 12 months.
Next was Chichester with 109, with Fratton close behind with 103 taken – the 20th worst figure nationally.
Havant’s figures have decreased year on year since 2016, with 85 bikes taken in all, while Swanwick recorded 52 cycle thefts.
Portsmouth Harbour station had some of the lowest levels of crime, with 19 bikes stolen. While both Portsmouth and Southsea and Cosham stations notched up 23 thefts each.
But campaigners fear these numbers could only be the tip of the iceberg.
Sam Jones, senior campaigns officer for the Cycling UK charity, said bike theft was ‘notoriously under-reported’.
‘Bicycle theft might seem a relatively minor offence – and unfortunately is sometimes treated as such by some police forces – but it is most definitely not,’ he said.
‘It's a low-risk, high-reward crime, with stolen bikes easily changing hands for hundreds or even thousands of pounds on the internet.
‘The majority of these bicycles stolen from train stations are not just play things, but are undoubtedly being used as a vital link in someone's journey to work or school.’
Mr Saunders called for more secure bike parking areas to be installed and urged the council to consider fitting additional secure
He added: ‘The authorities are not doing enough. I don’t know what more police can do in terms of proactively investigating.
‘There are very strong rumours that there’s organised bike theft gangs operating in the area.
‘I’ve seen five or six people reporting on Facebook their bikes have been stolen in the past few days.’
Fareham MP Suella Braverman said the prime minister had committed to recruiting 20,000 more police.
She added: ‘It is really shocking to learn that Fareham is one of the worst stations for bike thefts in the country.
‘This really underlines the fear that many residents have been voicing to me in recent months that more visible policing is needed.
‘That’s why I am really pleased that the new prime minister has pledged that he is going to oversee the recruitment of 20,000 more police officers.’
British Transport Police has urged people to buy ‘good quality’ D-locks and ensure their bikes are securely marked and registered at www.bikeregister.com
A spokesman said: ‘Unfortunately, bicycles remain a popular target for opportunistic thieves and British Transport Police works closely with train operating companies to improve security at cycle storage facilities throughout England, Scotland and Wales.’
Govia Thameslink Railway vowed to do more with a spokesman saying: ‘Across the network, we work closely with the British Transport Police and run joint bicycle marking schemes and have in the past handed out free high-security locks.
‘We also have notices advising cyclists how to lock their bikes securely.
‘Our own rail enforcement officers work alongside the BTP and at station hotspots we have put in dedicated patrols in uniformed and plain clothes.’
Hampshire police has also downplayed fears an organised crime gang is stealing bikes in the area.
Portsmouth District Chief Inspector Rob Mitchell said: ‘The majority of cycle thefts tend to be opportunistic from public places or outbuildings with thieves taking anything of reasonable value.
‘There is nothing to make us think that has changed recently or that an organised crime group is behind the bike thefts in our area.’