Superintendent Paula Booth is based at Harrogate Police Station and is North Yorkshire Police’s County Commander, which covers the districts of Harrogate, Craven, Hambleton and Richmondshire. Here, Supt Booth raises the issue of cycle crime, which has been a growing problem in the Harrogate District.
Bicycles – be it mountain bikes, road bikes, BMXs, fold-up travel bikes and right down to little children’s bikes kitted out with stabilisers – are everywhere you go in Harrogate and North Yorkshire as a whole.
This is no doubt a positive – and very healthy – legacy of the Tour de France Grand Depart in 2014 and the ever-popular Tour de Yorkshire. And this popularity with pedal power is only set to grow with Harrogate being named as one of the host venues of the Road World Championships in 2019.
While it is fantastic that many people are swapping cars for bikes for everyday journeys and generally getting lungs full of fresh air on weekend leisure rides, there is, I’m afraid to say, a serious spanner in the works which is proving to be more troublesome than getting a double puncture.
Since April this year, 131 bicycles have been stolen in the Harrogate District.
This is compared to 65 in the same period last year and 93 in 2014.
Each case is being investigated and every effort is made to recover the bikes and bring those responsible before the courts.
These criminals bring untold misery on their victims, as well as leaving people out-of-pocket to the tune of hundreds and sometimes thousands of pounds.
As part of our efforts to tackle this spike in cycle crime, we have put in place targeted patrols and operations to both deter offenders and catch them in the act.
Indeed, this led to the arrest of a 34-year-old local man just last month.
He has been charged with handling two stolen mountain bikes and is due to appear at Harrogate Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, November 24.
While this proactive police work is on-going, it is important that you, the residents of Harrogate and the surrounding area, continue to play a vital role to keep your bicycles safe and secure and away from opportunistic thieves.
As ever with crime prevention, a great deal can be done by following some basic steps such as keeping your bikes and other valuable equipment locked-up and out of sight.
This could be in a garage or garden shed with strong locks, or even inside your house.
Make it as difficult as possible for a thief to gain access and even harder to remove your bike.
There are many options available such as ground anchors and combination locks, to simply locking multiple bikes together to make it harder to steal them without detection or causing too much of a disturbance.
You can also arrange to have your bike and other equipment security marked using “dot peen”, which is provided free of charge by the police.
This enables us to return stolen items to their rightful owner much more quickly.
Always remember, criminals are on the look-out for easy and valuable targets.
They are, however, getting smarter at identifying properties where there could be expensive mountain bikes or road bikes in particular.
This includes houses with vehicles parked outside with cycle racks attached on either the back or the roof.
As you can imagine, you may as well display a big glowing arrow pointing towards your home by unwittingly advertising such items for the taking.
It is simple – if you remove the cycle rack form your vehicle, you are also removing temptation from prying eyes.
I know this thought may frighten you and make you feel unsafe.
But by taking responsibility for the security of your home and valuables such as bicycles, the reality is that you will significantly reduce your chances of becoming a victim of crime.
This in turn should greatly enhance your feeling of safety.
If you require security advice or to arrange “dot peen” security marking sessions in your neighbourhood, please contact your local policing team on 101.
I also urge you to report any suspicious behaviour in your community, either direct to North Yorkshire Police on 101 or by contacting Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.
If an emergency response is required, always dial 999.
By working together, we will keep criminals at bay and keep Harrogate as a very safe place that can be enjoyed by all… especially those on bicycles.