Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Appendix A: Summary of Responses to Bicycle Theft

The table below summarizes the responses to bicycle theft, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

Locks and Locking Practices
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
1Educating the public about the use of effective bicycle locks and locking practicesInforms cyclists about effective locks and how to use them properly...cyclists are not currently using secure locks or are not using locks properly. Cyclists should be encouraged to use two or more different types of locks and secure both the frame and wheelsInformation needs to be practical and clearly communicated directly to users and other relevant stakeholders. Carefully designed graphics on bike stands and products may grab cyclist attention and work better than text. This type of publicity should be specifically user-targeted.
Parking Facilities
2Reducing flyparkingImproves the location of existing public bike parking on the street; encourages cyclists to use secure street furniture rather than flypark...cyclists are flyparking many bicycles to street furniture or trees that do not provide adequate securityAny relocation should meet cyclists' demands, but not inconvenience other users of the space who could act as guardians against crime.
3Improving parking furnitureSome facilities do not encourage or allow appropriate locking practices. If such facilities are replaced or altered, then locking practices should improve... it is combined with educational and promotional activities to inform users about secure locking practicesMay require the cooperation of other stakeholders, facility owners. Changes may affect other users of the space. At locations where large numbers of cycles may be left for long periods, such as transit hubs or universities, and where surveillance is not possible, enclosed bike- parking facilities may be advisable. Access to enclosed facilities should be restricted to registered cyclists, facilities should be simple to use and regularly maintained, and efforts should be made to limit potential misuse.
4Increasing guardianshipIncreasing formal guardianship may have a deterrent effect... it occurs in locations where guardianship is currently inadequate, and guardians with a sense of ownership of the area (e.g., security guards) are empowered and motivated to actGuardianship's deterrent effect cannot be guaranteed. For example, increasing natural surveillance and/or installing CCTV may not guarantee bicycle security or have a deterrent effect. Alternatives such as locating bicycle repair shops (for example) at the entry to parking facilities may be worth considering.
Registration and Recovery
5Using traditional bicycle-registration schemesCyclists register bicycles to establish proof of ownership so that stolen bikes can be identified, thieves deterred, and recovered bikes returned to their owners. Police can search for stolen registered cycles...registration is mandatory and secondhand goods outlets ask for proof of ownership before buying bikes, or if police enforcement is possible. Optimum effectiveness is more likely if bicycles are registered at the point of sale, and thieves cannot remove registration marksIs unlikely to work if bikes are stripped for parts, as only the frame is typically registered. As an enforcement strategy, this is likely to require intensive policing unless the problem is highly geographically concentrated or other agencies get involved. Databases need to be maintained and cover a wide geographical area, and partners need to coordinate action. It may not prevent theft if offenders are unaware of the scheme. The marking method may affect subscription (e.g., some cyclists may fear that stamping the frame could damage their bike).
6Implementing an electronic tagging schemeCycles are fitted with unique Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID), and the owners' details are recorded in a database to establish proof of ownership. Police can search for stolen bicycles using an RFID reader...RFID tags are installed in the bicycle frame, rather than in the seat post, which must be removed first to allow easy scanning using an RFID reader, and if secondhand goods stores in the area also use RFID readers to determine the status of bicycles brought to themSee above
Offender Detection
7Setting traps to catch bicycle thievesPolice leave a cycle fitted with a tracking device (e.g., GPS) unsecured at a prominent location. If the bike is moved, then police will be alerted and can trace the bicycle with the aim of catching the thief or gathering intelligence on stolen bike markets...a small proportion of offenders are responsible for the majority of your local problem, and operational CCTV covers the location where the cycle is left so that the offender can be caught on camera. Cleaning fingerprints off the bike before putting it out also increases the likelihood of identifying forensic evidence that could aid in an investigation. Moreover, police should place the bike in a hot spot on days and at times when bicycle theft is most likely. To reduce the likelihood that offenders will get wise to the intervention, the bike should not be used in the same locations all the time. For the same reason, if the police are to use the intervention for a prolonged period, then they should regularly change the bike used or its appearanceThe bicycle may be sold on quickly, so any response should be swift, which may require dedicated police resources (if only temporarily). Check that local laws permit this type of strategy