Three men have been jailed for a total of five-and-a-half years after admitting being involved in the theft of hundreds of bikes from railway stations and other public places across London and Hertfordshire.
It follows a long-running investigation between British Transport Police (BTP) and Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) into the thefts, which occurred between July 2012 and December 2013.
Many of the stolen bikes were found for sale on popular auction websites.
The bikes had an estimated value of £74,000, and were stolen from more than 10 different railway stations.
All three appeared for sentencing at Blackfriars Crown Court on Friday, 17 October, after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing to conspiracy to steal pedal cycles and conspiracy to transfer criminal property.
Tomasz Brzezinski, 26, of Beechwood Gardens, Ealing, was jailed for 36 months, reduced to 30 months for an early guilty plea.
Joshua Scott, 19, of Marshall Street, Brent, was imprisoned for 24 months, reduced to 18 months for an early guilty plea.
Zayn Khan, 19, of Park Avenue, Ealing, received a 24-month jail sentence, reduced to 18 months for an early guilty plea.
Det Sgt Paddy Kerr, of BTP, said: “These men were involved in an elaborate criminal conspiracy to steal bikes from public bike racks and then quickly sell them on for cash – often using popular auction websites.
“They were organised criminals, targeting expensive bikes belonging to rail commuters.
“By disrupting large-scale criminal activity like this, we can continue to reduce the number of bikes stolen from railway stations in the London area.”
Officers were able to link more than 530 bike thefts to the three men by using a series of techniques.
In a small number of cases, the men were captured on CCTV stealing some of the bikes. Other offences were linked to them by painstakingly tracking their whereabouts.
In other cases, adverts for the stolen bikes online were placed from computers using their e-mail addresses.
Since their arrest, a further 460 online adverts for stolen bikes were linked to the trio.
These were taken into consideration at court, and formed part of their plea. The majority of the bikes were stolen from railway stations, with others stolen from the street.
In a case typical of the gang’s approach, a woman locked her Condor racing bike in the racks at Richmond railway station on Tuesday, September 11, 2012. When she returned later that day, the £900 bike was gone. Officers later discovered that the bike had been sold online.
In another case, officers were able to recover a stolen bike after the 35-year-old victim found it for sale online. The man’s vintage bike – worth more than £1,000 – was taken from the racks at Twickenham station on May 6, 2013, after he’d locked it there earlier the same day.
The following week, the man found an advert for his bike online. BTP officers contacted the seller, who claimed he had bought the bike from Joshua Scott, after seeing it advertised online. The bike was seized and returned to the owner.
Later analysis of CCTV footage from Twickenham station showed Khan and Scott in the area at the time. Cell analysis of Scott’s mobile phone, also placed him close to Richmond station on the same day.
In July 2013, properties occupied by Khan and Scott were searched by Met officers and bikes and tools were seized. On Tuesday, August 20, 2013, BTP officers arrested Brzezinski, Scott and Khan. They were interviewed and later charged on March 24, 2014.
Tackling cycle crime
Superintendent Matt Bell, Metropolitan Police Service, said: “These robust prison sentences were as a result of a joint investigation between ourselves and BTP.
“The theft of these bikes would have had a huge impact on commuters travelling to and from London. We continually take action against cycle thieves to curtail their criminal activity and bring them to justice.
“We urge all bike owners in London to take a few simple steps and help us ‘Lock Thieves Out’ - use decent locks of gold ‘sold secure standard’ and deter thieves by having your bicycle visibly security marked and registered on bikeregister.com.”
Other cycle crime-prevention tips include:
– Consider using more than one lock to secure your bike and ensure that you use a recognised security standard lock. D-locks, extension cable or heavy chain locks are certified locking mechanisms. It is important to ensure that yours are up to date.
– Make the lock(s) and bike hard to manoeuvre when parked by ensuring little room between the stand and the bike.
– Do not allow your lock(s) to come into contact with the ground, where they are viewed as more vulnerable.
– Take a photograph of your bike and record your frame number and key details. This will be crucial in recovering your bike if it is stolen.
– Mark your frame with your postcode in two separate locations, one of which should be hidden. Attach a ‘Coded Cycle’ label to reduce the risk of making your bike a target for theft.
– Do not ride with valuables in open baskets or panniers.
– Register your bicycle at www.immobilise.com orwww.bikeregister.com