London bike theft campaign 2022: insight and analysis

30th August 2023
Nick Titchener headshot

Nick Titchener

Managing Partner

In Brief

Our research identified just 1.1% of all bike theft crimes in London this year were prosecuted– the same figure as last year. Check out the data breakdown below.

Police data has revealed which London boroughs have been hit hardest by rising bike crime, with the South West being worst affected. Sutton is the borough with the greatest year-on-year increase at almost one-third (32%), followed by Hounslow (25%) and Bexley (13%).

In London, just 1.1% of all bike thefts lead to a formal sanction, including a suspect being charged or receiving a caution. This figure was the same in the 20/21 data suggesting that police are struggling to tackle the issue.

The boroughs where you’re least likely to identify a bike thief this year are Havering (0%), Croydon (0%) and Camden (0.03%), with just under 1 in 300 thieves being caught in these areas. 

We collated the data in October 2022 and revealed statistics from September 2021 to September 2022. This analysis comes after a recent investigation by the Daily Telegraph, which found that in 87% of the 24,000 UK neighbourhoods that reported bicycle theft in the last three years, not a single case was ever solved*.


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The five London boroughs that have seen the greatest increase in bike thefts are:

  • Sutton – 32%
  • Hounslow – 25%
  • Bexley – 13%
  • Kingston Upon Thames – 7%
  • Havering – 5%

Other areas that typically have higher rates of the crime experienced a fall. The borough of Waltham Forest reported a 45% decrease this year, compared to last year, when it featured among the top five boroughs for the crime. Haringey experienced the second-largest drop with 34%, followed by Enfield (34%) and Lewisham (33%).

With only 1.1% of bike thefts resulting in prosecution, criminals are taking advantage of what is now considered a ‘low-risk’ crime. Even those affected think the same way, with three-quarters of British people feeling that the police ‘don’t even bother’ investigating the crime**.

Nick Titchener, criminal defence solicitor at London law firm Lawtons Solicitors, says: 

“One major contributing factor to the increase in bike theft is that it’s just so easy for criminals to get away with the offence. We are seeing from this year’s data that the boroughs that were heavily impacted by crime last year have been able to reduce the problem, which we are now seeing spread to the South West boroughs.

“Unfortunately, suspects aren’t being identified because there’s usually no relationship between themselves and the victim and it’s a relatively low-priority crime for the police to pursue. On top of this, owners often don’t document the ownership of their bike, making it difficult to prosecute even if the perpetrator is caught. 

“It’s essential that you register your bike to help you recover it in the case of theft. Keep your receipt, make a record of the serial number and register your bike with a bicycle marking and registration scheme. This will enable the police to trace your bike back to you if it is stolen and recovered.” 

What actions can you take to maximise your chance of recovery if your bike is stolen? 

Chris Smith, MD at Pendle Bike Racks, says:

“Hopefully you will have registered your bike with BikeRegister and placed a security mark on your bike. The mark serves as a visible deterrent because the owner of a marked bike can be traced and the odds of arrest/prosecution are significantly higher. It also makes the stolen bike much more difficult to sell. If you happen to find your freshly stolen bike on a social media marketplace, resist the urge to go vigilante! As tempting as it might be to bang down the door and take back what is rightfully yours, the police are there for a reason.

“Lock all parts of your bike (not just the frame) to a secure bike rack using a top-quality lock. We recommend looking for the ‘Sold Secure gold or diamond’ class locks. Also, make sure you check out the bike rack. Cunning thieves have been known to cut sections out of steel stands and cover the gaps with stickers – then pluck a locked bike away with consummate ease. 

“If you can’t get your lock around them, remove all quick-release items from your bike and take them with you – for example your seat post, lights or your front wheel. Quick release is a great system for the rider, but unfortunately, it is great for the thief as well.”

Top tips to improve bike security

The London Borough of Waltham Forest says the following steps will help residents keep their bikes secure:

  • Use a heavy-duty D-lock that is ideally Sold Secure rated. Buy a lock that costs a third of the value of your bicycle
  • Use two different high-quality locks. This would make it more awkward for thieves as they would have to use different types of tools to remove them. The council recommends a heavy-duty D lock and a robust chain or cable
  • Lock both the frame and wheels to the cycle parking
  • Secure your bike as close to the stand as possible. Your bike needs to be difficult to manoeuvre with no leverage points for thieves
  • Take any quick-release parts with you e.g. quick-release saddles and wheels
  • Remove your lights

Register your bike. The sticker will put thieves off. It will also make it easier to find, should it get stolen

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