The Expert: Police

Advice from a former police officer

Mick Jones is a retired Detective Chief Inspector from Essex Police. Jones has seen it all from high-speed motorcycle pursuits as a police officer and covert surveillance rider to the impact of bike thefts during his role as a CID officer. He now continues his love of motorcycling as founder and riding coach for Total Advanced Motorcycle Training, a company he set up in 2005 to help riders to improve and become safer.

We asked Jones for his advice on preventing the most typical bike thefts:

The break-in

“Thefts from the owners’ homes are still quite common.” Jones tells us. “Coded keyless ignitions mean the thief needs the keys if he’s to be able to easily sell on the bike as a working machine. They may be in the house and it could be as simple as fishing for them through the letterbox if they’re within reach.

“However, bike theft is becoming more and more sophisticated and there is now software available that can read the code from a key if it’s within range. The thief can then replicate this code to produce his own key. All he has to do then is follow the owner to work or to his mid-ride coffee stop and the bike can be gone in seconds.

“I once saw some CCTV footage of a guy leaning against a window outside a house with a laptop trying to intercept a signal from the fob inside. It is happening and the kit is out there. The sad fact is if they really want your bike, the chances are they will get it.”

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The van and the gang

“This is rife at the moment. Off-road bikes are particularly vulnerable as they often don’t have a registration number, are not on the National Vehicle Register and are therefore almost impossible to trace unless they’re fitted with a tracker. Bikes are generally stolen to order, but trends have changed massively over the last 25 years.

“Sports bikes used to be the most vulnerable. And while that’s still true with more recent models that are popular with track day riders and racers seeking cheap spares, bikes that are also popular on the Continent are the most attractive to organised gangs looking to ship stolen bikes away from the UK to either break for parts or sell on complete with a new identity.

“Adventure bikes are as popular in Europe as they are in the UK, and retro bikes are gathering momentum overseas too.”

The fraudster

“Modern bike thieves come in all guises, so be on your guard for the fraudster. While slightly more sophisticated than lifting and loading a bike into a van, the end result is the same. People selling bikes online via eBay or any other site need to be very careful,” warns Jones.

“Scammers have been known to turn up to look at a bike for sale. They seem genuine and give little reason for suspicion. They may even offer to leave their car as security while they take a test ride. The car is stolen, but then you weren’t to know that… Then there’s the false payment scam suggesting payment has been made via PayPal, credit cards and BACS bank transfer. Whilst they may show you their instruction these can be cancelled just as quickly, so make sure the money is credited to your account first. Some cheques and bankers drafts can also turn out to be worthless.”

Location, location, location

The location for the transaction is another thing to consider, as Jones explains: “Some bogus buyers just want to scope out your house before they come back to steal the bike, so be careful what you show them. Another scenario is a buyer travelling a long way to make a purchase. He may ask to meet somewhere halfway, which seems reasonable enough, but how do you know the location is safe for an exchange of goods and money? Is it well-lit? Are there cameras? Any other people milling about? Or is it a dark, secluded spot away from prying eyes? Is this guy simply going to take your bike off you and disappear into the night?

“Being switched on and aware of the possibilities means you can take reasonable steps to ensure a smooth sale, rather than become another statistic.”

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