As a news organisation that engages closely with the community, SGM gets a lot of requests to help recover stolen goods and identify the culprits. While we are always happy to help, sometimes you get the feeling that people are not learning the important lessons of these often frequent stories.
There are three types of goods that are getting stolen again and again throughout the city, which seem to be coveted the most by thieves, especially young men who wear hooded balaclavas. They see these items as a big prize and frequently post TikTok videos about their thefts, which has become a national craze. Can you guess what they are?
That’s right, Bicycles, Mopeds and Motorbikes. Every single week on SGM we get at least two stories from residents about these things being stolen. Because of this we have decided that we need to advise people to take action to prevent this. It’s not rocket science and everyone has common sense, but here’s our tips anyway.
1. Keep your bikes out of public view when not using them
Thieves are prolific scouts. They wander the streets day and night looking for easy targets and points of vulnerability to exploit and don’t tend to miss much, but they are also lazy because they will always seek “low hanging fruit” rather than having to fight through multiple layers of security. In most of the stories sent into SGM by victims of theft, their bikes were very clearly visible in their front driveways and thieves simply swooped in and took them, or they were able to gain easy access to the back garden. You should actively hide your bikes when not using them, such as by putting an old blanket or carpet over them, or keeping them in a shed or garage if you have one. Improvise, don’t make it obvious.
2. If you have bikes, always assume thieves are watching
While some thieves wander round at night looking for things, a thief is always a thief even when they’re not in the act of thieving, which means they will act on what they already know and deduce from what they see around them every day. In this case, if you live in a street and a thief resides nearby, they will see you or your children everyday riding your bikes, mopeds or motorcycles. Because of this if you have one you should always assume potential thieves are watching and eyeing up the target. Don’t wait for them to come, prepare
3. Chain up your bikes
Not everyone can afford the luxury and security of a garage, and not every house in Sunderland has one. Because of this, if you’re keeping a bike on your driveway or in your back garden, make the assumption that it is vulnerable to theft and chain it up. A standard bike lock can be cut through, but a metal chain requires a bit more effort and this will reduce the motivation of some (but not all thieves) to do so.
4. Ensure your back garden gate is properly locked
If you’re keeping a bike or motorbike in your back garden, please keep the gate padlocked, a standard sliding lock isn’t secure at all. It is extraordinarily easy for thieves to open an unguarded backdoor gate by climbing over and opening it. If they cannot open the gate, they can still climb into your back garden, but they cannot lift out a heavy object such as a bike or motorbike all so easily.
4. Don’t assume CCTV will keep your safe
When bikes and motorbikes get stolen, there’s always CCTV or doorbell footage sent in to us. 99% of the time it’s useless because even if it shows them in the act, the quality is often so poor that they cannot be identified and more so, thieves have readily learnt that they can avoid being identified by covering up their faces with balaclavas. There is, even at our admission, nothing worse than a “do you recognise this person?” when it’s grainy footage of someone who’s face is not visible. Because of this, do not be lured into a sense of false security thinking CCTV will deter thieves, it doesn’t and never will.
5. Don’t assume the Police will help you
Because of funding cuts and reduced time allocation due to having less staff and resources, police are stretched to the limit. Two of Sunderland’s major police stations, in Farringdon and the City Centre, have closed down. The result of this is that police will not exert a major effort against what they deem to be “petty theft” unless the evidence and culprit is put down on a plate in front of them, such as for example if the thief is daft enough to reveal his face and therefore can be publicly identified. They will not otherwise go on a search and rescue mission for your own bike
6. If you live in Southwick or the Pennywell/Ford Area, take extra caution
The vast majority (but not all) cases of bike and motorcycle theft reported to SGM occur in either Southwick, Ford Estate, or Pennywell. We deem this is so not only because the socio-economic demographic is poorer, but also because these areas have large open spaces which are coveted by hooded balaclava motorcycle riding culture. This is particularly obvious for example, around the Carley Hill area. People living in these areas are surrounded by potential thieves and should be extra vigilant, as per point number 1, leaving your assets in public view at night is asking for trouble.