Do Police Find Stolen Bikes? [STATISTICS ANALYSED]

This post may contain affiliate links, which help to keep Discerning Cyclist rolling. Learn more.

Bike theft sucks. Unfortunately, it’s a big problem for cyclists. 

During the pandemic, thieves became even more brazen. London became the hotspot for thieves looking for an easy pinch, and hundreds of cyclists in the capital found themselves the victims of this bike theft epidemic. 

Theft happens everywhere. With even more thieves ready and waiting to snatch your ride out from under your nose, you might fear your beloved bike is next. 

What Do You Do if Someone Steals Your Bike

If you become a victim of theft, you’ll need to take all the appropriate measures to get your ride back. We’ve included the most important steps in our handy guide below:

1. Contact the Police within 24 hours

Reporting your bike as stolen should be the first thing on your list. You can contact the police via phone, online, or in person. 

When you file a report, you’ll need to provide as much detail as you can about the appearance of your bike, the location it was stolen from, and a rough idea of what time it was stolen (if you know).

2. Report the Theft to Your Insurer

The next job on your list should be to report the theft to your insurance provider. Ideally, this should be done within 24 hours. 

When you report the theft to your insurer, you’ll need to tell them you’ve filed a police report. They’ll want to check this (and they’ll ask for your crime reference number). Then, your provider should guide you through the process of getting your hands a new bike. 

To speed up the process, you should have the following information to hand: 

  • The date of the theft
  • Your insurance policy number
  • Crime reference
  • Evidence that you own the bike (e.g. pictures, bank statements, or receipts)
  • Photographs of the bike
  • Evidence of any damaged items left behind by the thief, such as your bike lock

If you don’t have specialist bicycle insurance, you may be covered under your home contents policy. If you’re not sure, contact your provider for more information.

If you don’t have insurance, you’ll, unfortunately, be left without a replacement until (or if) the police can recover your ride. 

3. Alert Others!

Social media is one of the best ways to get the word out. If you’re a member of any local community groups, share a quick post detailing the theft and include a picture of your bike. You can also offer a reward, too.

If you’re posting on Facebook, make sure you set your post to ‘public’ so it can be shared far and wide. You could also share the details of your theft on other platforms like Twitter. Ultimately, anywhere where your post can be shared far and wide is worth a shot. 

If you don’t use social media or want to boost your chances of being reunited with your bike, you can print out posters and stick them around your local area. Make sure you include a picture of your bike and include any relevant details of the theft. 

You can also approach local cycling shops and ask them to display these posters in their store. This gives other eagle-eyed cyclists a chance to keep a lookout for your bike and improve your recovery efforts.

4. Check Local Sales Boards

Many thieves utilise local sales groups, apps forums to try to sell their hot merchandise (often as quickly as possible). So keep an eye on as many local sales boards as you can, whether that be your “Local Things For Sale” Facebook page, apps like Shpock or any other places second hand items are typically sold.

Can You Look Up a Stolen Bike By Serial Number?

You can search for your bike’s serial number on bicycle identification databases like Bike Register. If you know your serial number but you didn’t register your bike before it was stolen, you can still register it on a database after the theft occurred.

On sites like Bike Register and Bike Index, you can then register your bike’s serial number as ‘stolen’. Many of these databases have groups of active users who will then help search for your bike. 

If your bike was sold on to someone after it was stolen, and the thief didn’t remove the serial number, the buyer can look this up on an identification database. If it’s listed as ‘stolen’, they’ll be able to reach out to you and reunite you with your ride. 

Reporting a Stolen Bike to Police

When you file your report with the police, you’ll need to tell them if your bike was security marked, padlocked, or registered on a bicycle identification database. Providing as much detail as possible will increase your chances of finding your bike. 

Once your report is filed, the police will provide you with written evidence of your report. This will come in the form of a crime reference number. Remember to ask the police for your unique number – you’ll need to give it to your insurer if you file a claim, and it’ll also allow you to track the progress of your case. 

Each police case is unique, so the investigation methods used for each one vary. However, all bike theft cases are handled with a similar approach. This involves: 

  • Using Bike Register to search for stolen and recovered bikes
  • Assessing CCTV from the area where the crime happened to establish the identity of the thief
  • Talking to witnesses in the area (if there were any)
  • They may appeal for people in the local area to come forward with information 

Do Police Find Stolen Bikes? [STATISTICS]

A massive 75% of bike theft victims don’t bother reporting their case to the police. Trust in the authorities to recover stolen bikes is so low that the aggregated statistics aren’t enough to gain the true extent of the problem.

According to data from Bikmo, a staggering 74,134 bikes were reported stolen in England in 2020 – and that’s just the ones we know about. If you’re concerned that the police won’t recover your bike – you’re not alone. Statistics suggest that just 5% of stolen bikes are returned to their rightful owners. 

However, while the police rarely retreive stolen bicycles in isolation, they often seize dozens or even hundreds of bikes from professional thieves. But this presents the problem of identifying who these bikes belong to as this is a near impossible task unless someone has report a bike stolen and with the bicycle’s serial number. That’s why it is so important that you should ALWAYS REPORT BICYCLE THEFT TO THE POLICE.

Recovery rates are much higher, and it’s estimated that around half of stolen bikes are eventually recovered by the police. When no owner is identified, these are sold in police auctions or donated to charity. 

Taking preventative measures like security marking, installing alarmed bike locks and GPS tracking devices can also drastically increase

Thieves are brazen, sneaky, and shameless – but they’re not going away. Kitting your bike out with locks, alarms and security markers is the best way to prevent theft. If you ever become the victim of a theft, you should always report it to the police. Taking all avenues to find your bike, including bike identification bases, is the best course of action.

Discerning Cyclist Store

Visit the Discerning Cyclist's Shop

Ride in style

Join our weeky newsletter to get early access to our latest discoveries.

Related reads