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The volunteers fighting London motorcycle crime

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London’s Metropolitan Police revealed at the beginning of 2019 that a total of 5,264 motorbikes were stolen in the capital alone last year. That’s 14.4 bikes per day. And although that’s a 16% reduction from 2017, it’s still a huge amount – and only 61.6% were successfully recovered.

In January, Motorcycle News also reported that out of the 45,000 motorcycle thefts that were reported in London between January 2015 and October 2018, only 1,200 people were ever charged with an offence, meaning the vast majority of investigations were closed with no suspects identified.

So it’s clear that owning and riding a motorcycle or scooter in London has never been more challenging. The bike crime epidemic is sweeping the capital with no end in sight and, to some, stopping thefts is seemingly impossible.

But that hasn’t deterred two London residents who decided to set up the Stolen Motorcycle Recovery London to help reunite stolen bikes with their rightful owners. The pair, known as Ray and Elliott, felt frustrated that the police weren’t given enough resources to deal with stolen motorcycle crime. So rather than sit back and complain, they set up the service to do their bit. Since being founded in April 2019, they have successfully recovered over 90 bikes, stored them, and returned them totally free of charge.

The duo have an excellent relationship with the Metropolitan Police, and work closely with them to share intelligence. Ray, co-founder of Stolen Motorcycle Recovery London, said: “Most officers who meet us then get in touch if we need help. They know we’re not vigilantes and we are not confronting people. All we do is recover the bikes. The overall aim, and one of our founding principles, is to free up officers for more urgent calls, so they don’t have to sit with a stolen motorcycle for hours while waiting for recovery.”

For recoveries, the team use a network of volunteer spotters in London who look out for suspicious looking motorcycles, which get reported back to Ray and Elliott for further investigation. Often, the motorcycles are on false number plates, so they use other methods of identification like checking VIN numbers.

Elliott, co-founder of Stolen Motorcycle Recovery London, explains how it works, adding: “There isn’t a ‘typical’ recovery nowadays. We try to be reactive, meaning that we wait for intelligence to come in from members of the public before heading out. But we also go out and see if we can find stolen bikes. And we often do.

“When intelligence comes in, we run some preliminary checks and confirm with the Met whether the bike is stolen or not and if they want it for forensics. If they don’t, we ask them to call the victim and pass on our details. Once the victim gets in touch, we usually deliver the bike straight away, free of charge. If we can’t get in touch, we will store the bike for free before delivering it at a later date.”

Because of the severe theft rate in London, insurance policies that cover theft can be expensive for the city’s residents. For couriers and other livelihoods where motorcycles are the main mode of transport, a theft might mean that the loss of a motorcycle can lead to a loss of employment.

All too often Ray and Elliott come across bikes that have been poorly protected, which makes them easier targets compared to others that have been secured properly. But how can you protect your bike more effectively against theft? Lock, chain and cover is Ray’s recommendation.

“For disc locks, get one (or two!) Abus 8077 locks, coupled with either an Almax or Pragmasis chain. With chains, the thicker the better. It takes about 15 seconds to remove a cheap lock, so we advise against them. Finally, trackers. A well installed tracker from either Datatool or Biketrac will maximise the likelihood of recovering your bike.” he explains.

Both Ray and Elliott have families and full time jobs, recovering bikes in their spare time. Most nights, they scour the streets in their self-funded van for stolen bikes in hope of returning someone’s pride and joy or workhorse, often starting at 16:00 and finishing at 04:00 the following morning and repeating the next day.

Stolen Motorcycle Recovery London is doing a fantastic job at supporting the police in the capital and is in the process of becoming a registered charity. It’s funded by Ray and Elliott’s own money and any donations they receive through their GoFundMe page. To donate and support their mission, click here.

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