Bonn. The police investigation team “Bike” has been in existence since March. The officers have set themselves the goal of solving more bicycle thefts. The team can already report some success.
The number of bicycle thefts increased significantly last year – and no improvement is in sight this year either. This is set to change, say Bonn police, who therefore set up the investigation group (IG) “Bike” on 1 March. The goal of the four-member team is to reduce the number of cases and increase the number of solved crimes, summarises the 44-year-old head, who does not want to her name to be reported in the newspaper.
The first successes are already being achieved. Several arrests of potential thieves who have tried to sell stolen bikes on the internet have already been made. In the most recent case at the end of March, a 34-year-old woman from Bonn searched the internet to look for her bicycle, which had been stolen in the west of the city. She had success and recognised her bike on an online platform and contacted the IG.
The IG took immediate action. Individual features were checked, further information was examined and it quickly transpired that this was indeed the bicycle of the 34-year-old. "Since the suspect lived in Cologne, we teamed up with our colleagues", explains the IG leader. In Cologne there has also been a bicycle investigation group since 1 April, with which the Bonn team is closely networked. Just one day later, a 47-year-old was searched, the bike was seized and was clearly identified by the frame number.
The finding of their property on the internet by victims is rather the exception. Usually the investigators discover the stolen bicycles on online sales platforms on the basis of certain characteristics. The IG leader could not say how often this happens. "There are no statistics on this”, but this is often currently felt to be the case.
Checks at flea markets
Internet research is not the only way to track down potential thieves. Additional methods include classic “street work” with plain-clothes officers. On the one hand, there is the perpetrator-oriented approach, explains the IG director. This means that investigators target individuals who have stolen bicycles several times in recent years. Additionally, investigators check flea markets and focus on major theft areas. These include the train stations in Bonn and Bad Godesberg and the Hofgarten.
For example, if someone at these locations "is on the road with a recognisably high-quality bicycle, he is stopped", says the 44-year-old team leader. It is then checked to see whether the frame number was reported stolen and the cyclist must prove that he really owns the bike. "In addition, members of the public often report high-quality, unlocked bikes in unusual places to us.” In these cases the team checks to see whether the owner can be found. If not, the bicycle is seized. What is certainly true is that the IG cannot do everything alone; support comes not only from the Criminal Investigation Department 37, but from all Directorates and police stations.
But why are so few bicycle thieves caught? It is basically difficult because the perpetrators mostly act unobserved, says the IG head. "You park your bike, walk away and come back. If it has been stolen in the meantime, you have no clues, unless someone happened to see something and then reports to the police," explains the 44-year-old. Perpetrators also act differently. There are the local thieves who take a bike with them – just to sell it three streets away. But there are also the national professional criminal groups who take the stolen goods (some of them abroad) and sell them later.
The investigation group “Bike” is initially active up to 31 October. The results will then be evaluated and will decide whether the four-member team under the 44-year-old chief can continue to make life difficult for bicycle thieves.
(Original text: Ayla Jacob; translation John Chandler)