Police turn to Facebook to stop bike thefts

Police turn to Facebook to stop bike thefts
Cycling is popular across Sweden. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
After figures suggested more than 70,000 bikes were stolen in Sweden last year, police turned to Facebook to help people keep hold of their cycles for the rest of the summer.

Swedes love to get on their bikes during the warmer months, and cycle lanes in the country’s major cities have been getting noticeably busier in recent weeks.

But despite Sweden’s generally low crime rate, tens of thousands of bicycles are stolen every year.

The nation’s police force this week updated its guidelines for cyclists in a post on Facebook which has made national headlines.

Much of the advice is common sense, including suggesting that people use strong cycle locks and to attach their bikes to fixed objects (such as a bike rack or fence). 

Police also argue that rather than finding a quiet spot, cyclists should park their bikes in busy, open areas where others might notice if someone tries to take them.

Sweden has a national bike registration scheme which holds cyclists’ details in a secure database which all regional police forces have access to. If you buy a new bicycle it will be linked to your personal number.

Swedish police also recommend that all cyclists mark their bikes using security kits. These can be bought in bike stores or online and allow customers to label their cycles with unique codes that cannot be removed, to further help police identify bikes that are stolen.

“You can protect yourself by making a police report, so that if we find the bike, we can look it up in our register – otherwise thieves will just continue to ride it,”  Christer Brandström, a spokesperson for police in Flemingsberg added, when explaining the tips to Sweden’s Metro newspaper.

He noted that there were two distinct kinds of bike crime in Sweden, “spontaneous” thefts where someone takes a cycle just to make a journey and organised plots to steal bikes and sell them on.

“In some cases they are sold abroad. They put them on containers and ship them out,” he said.

While cycling is popular in all of Sweden's major cities, Malmö was named the sixth most bike-friendly city in the world earlier this month in a new index of cycling in urban environments.

The Copenhagenize index praised the southern city's investment in infrastructure, behavioural campaigns and the opening of a large bicycle parking facility at the train station two years ago.

But it criticised Stockholm and Gothenburg, for not pushing themselves far enough in terms of innovation or political will.