Last week I left my bike parked during the day at Cambridge station. As is regrettably necessary in this area of the city I had left it locked to a stand with a hefty D-Lock and had secured the wheels using a using a thick, coated, braided steel cable; I had also removed my lights and taken them with me. These precautions weren’t enough though; I returned to find my bike had been vandalized; as I moved my bike the pannier rack fell towards the floor – it had been partially detached from the bike in an apparent attempt to steal it.
While this is very minor I thought I would report what happened to the police; as I think cycle crime really needs to be tackled in Cambridge and it helps those lobbying for better cycle parking provision and more action against cycle thieves if more things like this are reported. I expected to be able to do this at the front desk at Cambridge’s Parkside police station when I popped in on a weekday afternoon last week. I was surprised when I was told that I wouldn’t be able to report what had happened to Cambridge Police as they don’t accept reports of things which have happened on station property, including the car-parks and cycle stands. The person staffing the front-desk told me that this happens a lot and he gave me phone numbers for British Transport Police in Cambridge and advising the chances weren’t great that I’d get a response from there he also gave me a number for British Transport Police at Kings Cross.
A few days after my visit to Parkside I came across the advice slip on which the phone numbers were written and called the Cambridge number; I did speak to someone but he told me British Transport Police don’t take reports of crimes in Cambridge and that I needed to call the BTP “Crime Report Centre” on 0800 40 50 40 – which was the “Kings Cross” number I’d been given at Parkside. Having come this far I decided to press on and make the call. The first person I spoke to took some brief details and issued an incident number (363 of the day) then transferred me to the “Crime Recording Centre”. I then spoke to a second operator, who gave me a “Crime reference number” – (B03-005982-2010) and for some, unexplained, reason offered me the phone number of a third body the “Crime Management Centre” (0207 3918250).
The crime recording centre asked for a huge range of details including my name, address, phone number, email address, date of birth, religion, occupation, ethnicity, height and what I was wearing on the day. The latter points were explained to me as being in-case any CCTV footage was available which could be looked at (not that I’d given, or been asked for, enough details to precisely locate and identify the bike) so that I suspect was a bit of theatre designed to give the impression they might actually investigate. I made very clear to each person I spoke to all I was seeking was an entry on their statistics.
The police asked me if I was aware of any CCTV covering area where I had left my bike. I thought this was a particularly interesting question as Cambridgeshire Police too don’t appear either to know where CCTV cameras are despite the huge sums of public money our councillors spend on the systems.
- Following my experience I am left wondering if bike crime at the station is included in the crime figures for the City of Cambridge which are reported to groups which set local policing priorities like the East Area Committee. The latest Neighborhood report for the East Area – which includes most of the station (and all the station cycle-parking) doesn’t mention the station despite having a detailed street level breakdown of cycle thefts.
- New cycle parking at the station promised as part of the CB1 redevelopment may now be delayed following the collapse of the development company and its successor expected to renegotiate details with the City Council; reporting cycle crime is always important but now particularly so to support attempts to continue to lobby for the improved provision promised. (See December 2009 application to ammend CB1 planning conditions and vary s.106 agreement deferring £1.2m of payments out of the 1,000 student rooms phase..)
- The police have estimated most cycle crime goes unreported; that’s certainly my experience both personally and from talking to others. I think it ought be made easier to report crimes; getting Cambridgeshire Police to talk to the British Transport Police would be a good start, there appears to be a lot of scope to reduce the complexity of the recording system.
- I think Cambridge police need to take cycle crime seriously, as so many people, as I do, use their bikes as their primary mode of transport in the city.