Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Bicycle crime

The latest crime statistics from the home Office were published last week, and tell us something about bicycle crime.

Before I start, lets get something out of the way. Fans of a certain national newspaper will know that, "most people have an instinctive understanding that crime is a lot worse than it used to be". I know that around two-thirds of people believe that crime is rising, but the official figures say otherwise. Personally I place more faith in the falling numbers reported to the police, and by the public in the annual crime survey. Everyone understands that the official numbers are imperfect. Instinct is imperfect too. In my opinion, hard data gathered by professionals is a more reliable guide to these things than instinct.

If you disagree, please stop reading this now - it will only make you grumpy. And don't bother telling me that the government massages the crime figures - it will only make me grumpy.

Anyway, this is what the report says.

Bicycle theft has fallen by 34% since 1995. This compares to a 48% fall for all types of crime over the last 12 years. There were greater falls in vehicle-related theft (-66%) and domestic violence (-65%). Over the last 12 years the decline in vandalism (-20%) and theft from the person (-15%) were less significant.

The decline in bicycle theft over the last year has been 8%, from an estimated 482,000 incidents in 2006/7 to 441,000 incidents in 2007/8. The number has been hovering in the region of 400,000-450,000 incidents over the last four years. Ten years ago it was falling more quickly - from 673,000 incidents in 1995 to 368,000 in 2001/2, after which it had been rising until last year.

This equates to 187 bicycle thefts for each 10,000 households. I find that easier to say as 1.87% of housheholds, or to envisage as one in 53 househlds. Sadly, not everyone owns a bicycle, and the proportion of bicycle owning households that had one stolen last year was 3.6%, or one in 28. Unfortunately for them, 9% of those suffered a second bicycle theft, and 3% suffered even more than two. What that means is that 23% of bicycles stolen in 2007/8 were stolen from victims of more than one bicycle theft.

If you think of your bike as property, then thefts of a bicycle represent 14% of all thefts of property, (excluding burglaries and vehicles). If you think of a bike as a vehicle, then they represent 17% of vehicle thefts. If you think of your bike as a person, then you really need to get out more (but 441,000 bicyce thefts compares to 16,939 incidents of serious violence agains a person; and 944,249 other incidents of violence against a person).

Sadly, only 41% of bicycle theft is reported to the police. That compares to 93% of vehicle theft, and 32% of theft from the person. It is about the same proportion as similar crimes (around 40-44% of thefts from a vehicle, attempted vehicle thefts and robberies are reported). The proportion of bicycle thefts reported in 2007/8 was up slightly on the previous year, but significantly lower than levels of more than 60% reported in the 1990's. Generally the reason given for not reporting this type of crime is that it was trivial, or the police could not or would not do anything about it.

I suspect the relative fall in value of everyday bicycles has something to do with it, but those who think the police can do nothing could be right. Only 5% of bicycle thefts that are reported end up being successfully prosecuted - one of the lowest rates for any crime.

Note that the actual number of bicycles stolen will be higher than the figures I have quoted. An incident is only classified as the theft of a pedal cycle if nothing else was stolen at the same time. It is classed as burglary if anything else was stolen from a dwelling; as theft when a bicycle is stolen from inside a house by someone who was not trespassing; and as theft from a vehicle if the bicycle is one of a number of things stolen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My daughter and I have been a victim of theft. My daughter is only 9 yrs old and someone has stolen her bicycle (Next 20' Jewel freestyle pink and black from walmart, temple, Pa) and electric scooter (Razor 100 watt red from Pep boys) off our porch between 2-4pm. Who has the nerve to come on someone's property and taking something that does not belong to them.. I work hard for the things my girls have, being a single mother of 2. It just frustrates me that im not alone. And I hope these people are caught and charges are filed. Laureldale, Pa was never like this when i was growing up.. Its upsetting to see what my girls are going to have to deal with and ect.. If anyone should happen to know of stolen items please call Laureldale Boro Police dept. 610-929-8816. thank you!