Cycle theft rates fall, but an unfortunate reminder of the need for vigilance

Our August update on bike thefts paints a mixed picture. Theft rates in 2023 have been lower than the previous year, but an unfortunate recent theft of a young Winchester resident’s bike reminds us that one must be constantly vigilant to keep bikes secure.

General trends

The first 5 months of the year saw the number of bike thefts in Winchester and at the railway station at a considerably lower level than for the same period last year. However figures for June are less reassuring; this is hopefully a “spike” and the figures for the rest of the year will be lower. The charts below show the number thefts from within Winchester city and the railway station.

It remains the case that thefts from the Winchester station are much more frequent when compared with Southampton Central, with two and half times the theft rate. We suspect that is partly down to the on-platform bike parking at Southampton. The secure parking at Winchester only seems to have a very small number of users (4 when recently observed). We don’t have new information as to which locations at the station are most frequently targeted by thieves.

The map below shows the locations of all thefts (52) in Winchester (including the station) between January and June this year. The hotspots are at the station and in the city centre. There was one theft from the Winchester Sports and Leisure Centre in June (precise location not known) and we are aware of a second one July.

July theft from Winchester Sports and Leisure Centre

The unlucky victim of the July theft from WSLC was a teenager who had parked their bike in the sheltered cycle parking at the side of the building because it was raining – rather than using the racks at the front. To a teenager the loss of their bike is both a loss of transport and independence.

From the picture it looks as if the cable lock had been cut with a pair of small cable cutters (the cut is not clean) – this might have taken a couple of minutes. It is a unfortunate reminder that in high risk areas (such as WSLC and the station) cable locks are not recommended. See our advice on the Cycle Winchester website.

WSLC signage

After some discussion with WSLC they have provided some signs at the shelter advising that there are racks and lockers in front of the building.

Unfortunately it implies that CCTV surveillance at the shelter will keep your bike safe – CCTV evidence is rarely effective at identifying or convicting a thief – and it refrains from saying why you might want to use the racks and lockers in front of the building. It also makes no suggestion that you might want to use a good lock rather than any lock. This example, from a railway station, is much more informative.

This is a missed opportunity to provide some useful information. Although there are some signs of better locks being used, many of the locks used at WSLC can be cut in seconds. From what we know, our advice is to not use the shelter and to use a good lock. Individual cyclists will be probably unaware of historical thefts from this and other locations. Please pass this advice onto fellow cyclists

Home office data shows that of the 350,000 thefts reported between 2017 and 2002 only 159 resulted in conviction (a rate of 0.05%) and only 2 resulted on immediate custodial sentences. Because many thefts are not reported, the real figures are far worse. Bike theft is a low risk activity; figures for Hampshire (2022-2023) show that in 93% of cases no suspect was identified. Whether we like it or not, it continues to be the case that it is down to us to reduce the risk to our bikes.

If you have had your bike stolen from the Railway Station or WSLC we would like to know the precise location to help make the case for specific changes based on your experiences. Please contact us if you have any useful insights.

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