Q&A with a former bike thief

Devitt managed to find a man who once made his living from other people’s misery. We can’t name and shame him for legal reasons but are glad to learn that his criminal life is in the past and that he is now using his manual skills as a tradesman.

How would you spot an easy target?

“Obviously an unlocked bike on an unlit street is prime to be lifted. To be honest if someone wants your bike enough they’ll have it. I know people who have carefully and quietly dismantled the rear wall of a garage to get to a bike undetected. They knew the alarm only worked off contacts on the up-and-over door because they’d been tipped off. But generally the fewer obstacles, the more attractive the bike becomes. Anything that looks like potential aggro will be left well alone.”

What’s the one thing that would have put you off?

“I’m not sure there ever was anything. Trackers obviously mean things could come back to you if you’re not moving it on sharpish, which is always a worry, but short of being caught red-handed, there’s very little that would have stopped me. It was just my job.”

How long would it take you to steal a locked bike from the street?

“About five seconds. Let’s say the bike has a disc lock and a chain around the back wheel securing it to a lamppost. One guy cuts the chain and grabs the back end of the bike, the other gets hold of the front and it’s in the van and away. No one bats an eyelid when an alarm is going off, so that wouldn’t be a problem either. It really is very easy when you know what you’re doing.”

Have you ever been confronted by the owner or a member of the public?

“No, I’ve always managed to either be covert or just be so bold it doesn’t look as though I’m stealing it. One guy once asked me what I was doing as I chomped through a lock with a pair of bolt-croppers. I just told him: ‘it’s what happens when people don’t make their loan payments mate’ and raised my eyebrows. He nodded and wandered off, thinking I was working for a repossession firm. I’ve had odd looks from people before, but most people don’t want to get involved, it’s not their problem.”

How easy it is to move on stolen bikes/parts?

“Easy because I’d always have a buyer first. Bikes would be stolen to order, usually for spares to repair one that had been crashed. I was relatively small time, but I do know about gangs that have made a lot of money doing it on a big scale, all of it to order.

It’s like a shopping list. You just go and get what you need and move it on sharpish. You don’t want anything hanging around — that’s when you get caught.”

How much would you make on a bike worth £15,000?

Anything from £1,000 to £3,000. This would usually be split between three or four people. It’s not much but then it’s the log sheet and legal documents that make a bike valuable. Some thieves would steal a bike for as little £50, depending on how desperate they are.

I was never into drugs; I don’t really get why people are. I did it to make a lot of money. But there are plenty of addicts out there willing to steal a bike for the cost of their next hit.”

Have you been a victim of bike theft?