Police cuts blamed for huge rise in bike thefts in parts of Ipswich

Stock image. Pic: Tim Ireland/PA Wire.

Stock image. Pic: Tim Ireland/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Police cuts have been blamed for a huge rise in bike thefts in a key area of Ipswich.

Bike thefts in Ipswicy by ward, from 2013 to 2016 so far.

Bike thefts in Ipswicy by ward, from 2013 to 2016 so far. - Credit: Archant

Suffolk police figures obtained by the Star show the number of stolen bikes in the Westgate ward – covering parts of London Road, Bramford Road and Norwich Road – has almost doubled in the last three years. It has shot up from 31 in 2013 to 59 so far in 2016.

In the whole of Ipswich, it has risen from 432 to 449, as of September 2016, with three months remaining.

The crimewave has come as cycling is enjoying a huge rise in popularity, spearheaded by Olympic champions including Sir Bradley Wiggins.

Cyclists have also been warned not to post photos of their bikes on social media amid fears thieves may be monitoring their movements.

Carole Jones, a councillor for the Westgate ward and portfolio holder for development at Ipswich Borough Council, said the figures were “concerning”.

Suffolk Constabulary must make £7.5m savings by 2020, down from the previous £20.5m figure, as a result of the much better than expected funding settlement from the Home Office earlier this year, and the decision by Tim) Passmore, Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner, to increase the precept by just less than 2% per annum in the next financial year.

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The overall strength of officers will now rise to just under 1,100. Recruitment was also ring-fenced for police community support officers (PCSO). There were 166 full-time equivalent PCSOs in Suffolk in November last year, according to the latest figures.

Mrs Jones said: “Over the years the police have worked hard to reduce bike thefts in Ipswich, but funding cuts make a big difference. For example, Westgate residents I’ve spoken to are definitely unhappy about the cuts to PCSO hours – there are no PCSOs after 6pm now, and obviously this affects what the police are able to do.

“We’ve asked Mr Passmore look at this again, as we feel it definitely doesn’t work for Westgate residents, and the increase in bike thefts seems to prove it.”

In response, chief inspector Simon Mills, of Suffolk Constabulary, said: “Although many areas in Ipswich are seeing a reduction in bike thefts, it remains an opportunist offence.

“We regularly run specific operations to both target offenders of bike theft and to educate members of the public around crime reduction.”

Bridge ward recorded the biggest annual rise in bike thefts, rocketing from 16 in 2015 to 36 in 2016 so far. Last month, we revealed how Bridge ward had also seen the biggest vehicle crime increase, rising from 66 to 116 from 2014/15 to 2015/16.

Steve Grimwood, owner of Elmy Cycles in Ipswich, said: “Generally, there are two types: opportunists taking a bike outside a shop for example and burglaries, which is the more worrying aspect, in which people target houses and sheds and take high-valued bikes.

“It is a worrying thing which has increased, and it goes hand-in-hand with the huge popularity of cycling now. More people do have expensive bikes now. It used to be golf clubs getting pinched. Now it is expensive bicycles.

“One thing we advise our customers is to be careful with social media – don’t advertise the fact you have got an expensive bike in your garage, and be very careful with mobile tracking apps and their privacy settings.

“The main message is to be vigilant, be very careful on social media, and anchor your bike into the ground or wall (in sheds). We also recommend Sold Secure silver-rated locks.”