Stakeholder interview Bicycle theft
‘Cooperation is crucial’
Accell Group is working to tackle bicycle theft in cooperation with Dutch anti-vehicle theft foundation StAVc (Stichting Aanpak Voertuigcriminaliteit), the police, government agencies, educational institutions and other manufacturers. Mojgan Yavari, who is a police chief inspector and has been seconded to StAVc as the national coordinator for the Dutch national Bicycle Theft Action Plan, talks about the importance of cooperation, the use of bait bikes and the rise of connected bikes.
Just how big is the bicycle theft problem?
‘Bicycle theft is a persistent problem, but it is quite difficult to gauge the exact scope of the problem. Based on police reports and available data, we suspect that about half a million bikes are stolen in the Netherlands every year. That number is a rough estimate because people are not particularly willing to file a police report and the registration system is far from perfect. Bicycle theft is not a uniquely Dutch problem, but because bikes are so deeply woven into our daily lives, the social impact is huge.’
Is bicycle theft more likely to be opportunistic or part of organised crime?
‘Over the last decade, we have seen a clear shift from opportunistic theft to organised gangs with a highly professional approach. This is clearly related to the rise of more advanced and more expensive e-bikes and sports bikes. These bikes are very attractive targets for bicycle thieves. Thanks to the growing attention for sustainability and the changing position of the bicycle in the mobility chain, bicycles are increasingly popular all over the world. Criminals have also noticed this trend and are deliberately looking for brands and models that are in demand.’
How is bicycle theft being tackled, and what is Accell Group's role in this?
‘The action plan against bicycle theft is based on close cooperation between police, government agencies, educational institutions, manufacturers and insurers. Under the umbrella of the Dutch anti-vehicle theft foundation StAVc, but we also share insights and best practices in a cooperative initiative like 'Tour de Force'. While every party involved has their own reasons and goals, we all benefit from reducing bicycle theft and increasing the chances that thieves will be caught. I know Accell Group as a company that attaches great value to cooperation and is always a driving force behind initiatives such as this. Accell Group also provides us with bait bikes.’
“We're using bait bikes to map out routes and create offender profiles.”
How are bait bikes being used?
‘Working with the Public Prosecutors office, local police units are placing bait bikes fitted with track & trace devices in strategic locations where bike theft is known to be common. If a bike is stolen, we can immediately arrest the thieves, but we can also choose to follow the bike. So we're using bait bikes to map out routes and create offender profiles. Bait bikes also act as a deterrent to bike thieves.’
Where can improvements still be made?
‘When people file a report on a stolen bike, nine out of ten times they don't know the frame number. And it's often hard to get information on other features. That's not surprising, but it does limit the effectiveness of any search. Within the Tour de Force initiative, we're considering setting up a central registration system where we can log unique features. The best case scenario would be for this information to be available in an app, which people can use to file a report with the push of a button. This would improve the quality of police reports, which in turn would increase the chances of catching bike thieves and the percentage of retrieved bikes. Until then, I recommend that everyone document the features of their bike and always report thefts.’
How does the rise of the connected bike affect how bike theft is handled?
‘The connected bikes appearing on the market right now are all provided with track & trace devices. Owners can follow their bike live using an app. This is making it easier to locate stolen bikes, but it also means that roles of the people involved in the approach to bicycle theft are changing.’