Thanks to a series of anti-theft initiatives, Westminster City Council (WCC) have managed to reduce motorcycle thefts from one of its ‘hotspots’ in St James’s Square to zero. That’s right, since September 2014, not one motorcycle has been stolen from the square. Until then, approximately one bike per week was being taken.
£1,000,000 worth of motorcycles, scooters and mopeds have been stolen from the whole of the City of Westminster since April 2014 – a total of 191.
In September 2014, WCC partnered up with Datatag, the security marking specialists, to offer riders the opportunity to have their bikes ‘tagged’, on site, for just £50. Tagging involves applying a combination of highly visible and hidden security markers, which deter thieves but also help the police recover vehicles if they are stolen. Fitting takes around 25 minutes to complete and the steady queue of riders looking to take up the offer was testament to it’s popularity.
The Metropolitan Policewere also there to run PNC checks on the bikes being tagged to make sure they weren’t already on the stolen register. Warning signs were then placed all round the square to let potential thieves know the bikes had been tagged.
Paul King, Community Protection Officer for Westminster City Council who has led on this project explained:
“We are determined to reduce motorcycle theft in the City of Westminster and to give parking customers the best possible experience, which includes coming back to find your bike where you parked it. We have applied a combination of measures in partnership with the Metropolitan Police and Datatag, which alerts riders as to the risk and gives them the means to avoid them.
“We aim to repeat the opportunity for riders to have their motorcycles and scooters marked in the New Year for riders who use Berkeley Square parking, as we feel this provided a turning point in St James’s Square, which we would like to repeat for other theft ‘hot spots’ in the City.
“We would also urge any rider who parks near an anchor point to make sure they use it. All these measures clearly work, but only if riders stay vigilant.”
Steve Kenward, CEO of the Motorcycle Industry Association, which invented the MASTER* Security Scheme – the UK’s first national, official tagging scheme for new bikes, says this concerted effort by Westminster City Council proves that marking works. He said, “We are delighted to hear the part security marking is playing in eliminating theft in St James’s Square and applaud Westminster City Council’s systematic approach in dealing with it and would like to see other London councils making such an effort.
“The underlying message gained from this exercise is that thieves like easy pickings. Make it as hard as possible for them to steal in the first place and if they do, make sure your bike is marked. This makes it easy for the police to secure a prosecution when they find a stolen motorcycle or scooter and helps them return it to its rightful owner.”
Since the MCIa launch of their MASTER Security Scheme, over 70,000 new bikes have been MASTER tagged.
MASTER stands for Motorcycle and Scooter Tagged Equipment Register and was launched in 2012. Participating manufacturers include BMW, Ducati, Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, Suzuki, Triumph, Yamaha and Harley-Davidson. It was developed by the Motorcycle Industry Association with Home Office backing in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police force in response to the considerable nuisance that motorcycle theft caused to motorcyclists, the police, insurers and the industry.
First year figures for the scheme show that between January 2013 and January 2014 only 185 MASTER tagged motorcycles were stolen across the whole UK.
Westminster City Council has also added 78 ground anchors to the parking bay, which offer an additional highly visible deterrent. When riders secure their bikes to anchor points it makes it difficult for thieves to just lift up a scooter or motorcycle and put it into a van – a common way for thieves to steal an unsecured bike.
Over the past few years an average of 24,000 motorcycles have been stolen annually in the UK, half of which are taken from London streets, with motorcycle theft in Westminster accounting for 55% of all vehicles stolen.
Unfortunately the problem is shifting to unmarked bikes. Motorcycles or scooters which are unprotected by security marking or any visible means of security are now far more likely to be stolen than those which are protected.