Big city bike thefts spin out of control

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Jörg Luyken - [email protected]
Big city bike thefts spin out of control
Not enough bikes are properly secured. Photo: DPA

340,000 bikes were stolen in Germany in 2014. As police struggle to cope with the rapid rise in the crime, the numbers continue to rise.


Across the entire country bike theft is becoming ever more of a problem.

Around 23,000 more bikes were stolen in 2014 than in 2013 – almost 10 percent of these in the capital Berlin - a study released by the internet marketplace on Tuesday shows.

The total value of the stolen two-wheelers comes to around €160 million, estimates the study which took its figures from numbers published by the National Crime Office (BKA).

As well as showing a crime rate spiraling out of control, the figures also show the police are almost totally impotent in the face of the thieves.

The detection rate nationwide lies at 10.7 percent and in Berlin and other large cities this number is less than 5 percent..

University towns, places where the ratio of cyclists is high, are particularly affected.

In the student town Münster 1,509 bikes are stolen for every 100,000 inhabitants of the town. The numbers are almost as severe in Güttingen and Potsdam, two other famous university towns.

'Fueling the trade'

A spokesperson for the Berlin police told The Local "it really is becoming a problem. The value of bikes is going up all the time and there are possibilities [for thieves] on every street corner."

The spokesperson said that the main problem was the poor quality of locks, estimating that about half of all bike locks in the capital are made of material that can easily be cut through with a set of metal cutters.

He recommended buying a D-lock with a security rating of at least ten, but warned that even these are not impregnable.

"You need to lock your bike to something secure, it's not enough to simply lock a wheel to the frame. And at night take it into the cellar,“ he said.

The spokesperson also recommended asking for proof of purchase plus identification when one buys a second hand bike, saying that most of those sold on street corners and at flea markets are stolen.

"By buying these you may be saving a few pennies but you are fueling the trade in illegal bikes,“ he said.

As for the criminals themselves, the spokesperson conceded that the police had little to go on.

"Because we are talking about a detection rate of 10 percent we don't know who 90 percent of the criminals are. There are rumours of organised gangs coming in with lorries. This could be true but we don't know for sure.“

North and east particularly affected

There are also stark regional differences in levels of the crime and its detection.

In Berlin, where almost 31,000 bikes were stolen in 2014 – that's 85 every day – only four percent of crimes were solved.

The rate of detection is similarly low in other large northern towns such as Hamburg (3.8 percent) and Bremen (5.4 percent.)

But in Munich the rate of theft is less than half of that in Berlin, at 425 thefts per 100,000 inhabitants.

The Bavarian capital also has a significantly higher success rate on the part of the police. Bike thefts are solved 29 percent of the time there.


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