2022-23 Motorcycle Theft Stats for Leeds and Bradford

Leeds and Bradford MAG carries out an annual survey of motorbike theft stats in the Leeds and Bradford police divisions. The stats are collated via a Freedom of Information Act request (https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/leeds_and_bradford_motorcycle_th_4). Additional stats are available from https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/user/marcus_houlden/requests. We now have stats for 1 June 2022 – 31 May 2023 and these are the main findings. The raw data we used to generate these statistics is available as a CSV.

The total number of thefts recorded by the police in this period was 1194. It has stayed relatively stable since 2018, allowing for the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic. The figures are as follows:

  • June 2018 – May 2019: 1094. 536 (49%) recovered
  • June 2019 – May 2020: 874. 433 (49.5%) recovered
  • June 2020 – May 2021: 615. 257 (41.8%) recovered
  • June 2021 – May 2022: 1074. 503 (46.8%) recovered
  • June 2022 – May 2023: 1194. 579 (48.5%) recovered

This year shows a slight increase of about 120 compared to the previous year. 579 bikes were recovered. This is a rate of 48.5% and is similar to other years. 805 thefts were recorded in Leeds and 389 in Bradford.

The figures also include the outward postcode area where each crime was recorded. This may be where a bike was taken or where a stolen bike was discovered. The top 15 postcode areas are:

  1. LS14
  2. LS10
  3. LS15
  4. LS6
  5. LS9
  6. BD4
  7. LS11
  8. LS2
  9. LS12
  10. LS13
  11. LS1
  12. LS27
  13. Not recorded
  14. BD3
  15. BD5

The bulk of these postcodes are in East Leeds. The Seacroft, Swarcliffe and Halton Moor areas have a particularly bad reputation for motorbike theft. Several people have reported their bikes as being stolen from the new Skelton Lake service station in LS9. There are increasing reports of the East Leeds Outer Ring Road and parallel cycle tracks being used as escape routes by thieves.

The top Bradford postcode area is BD4. This includes the Holmewood and Bierley areas. The next most common Bradford postcodes are BD3 (at position 14) and BD5 (at position 15). These adjoin the BD4 area.

The police recorded the following outcomes for all these cases:

  1. Investigation complete: No suspect ID – 916
  2. Ongoing – 112
  3. Evidential difficulties: Suspect ID – 101
  4. Charge/Summons – 43
  5. Evidential difficulties: Suspect ID (Victim based) – 19
  6. Prosecution prevented: Suspect too ill – 2
  7. Prosecution time limit expired – 1

Some of them may have resulted in a prosecution or conviction but the police do not track these. 1039 out of 1194 cases did not result in a conviction. This is a rate of 87%. Just 13% are still under investigation or a charge or summons has been issued.

Motorcycle theft is not a victimless property crime. People have been threatened with violence by thieves. Antisocial riding of stolen bikes causes misery to communities. Some are used in the commission of serious crimes. The sale of stolen bikes and parts is used to fund organized crime. There are also subcultures that see stealing bikes as a game. They even post videos on social media to show off what they have done. The risk of being caught is low and any consequences very minor.

We understand that the police have budgetary constraints and other priorities. A multi-agency approach is therefore needed to prevent and disrupt it. In addition to the police we believe that agencies such as the council antisocial behaviour team and housing departments, the Business Against Crime In Leeds partnership and car park operators all have a part to play.

The council could use powers under antisocial behaviour legislation and council tenancy behaviour clauses. Businesses and car park operators could instruct their security staff to keep an eye out for potential thieves. A simple method is needed for members of the public to report suspicious behaviour via a web form, email or voicemail separate from the police 101 service.  Crime reduction teams might develop a programme to make motorcycle theft gangs as socially unacceptable as drug dealing. Traffic planners need to ensure that segregated cycle lanes do not inadvertently become escape routes.

Sadly there have been a number of fatalities involving stolen bikes in Leeds and Bradford over the last 12 months. The Vision Zero road safety initiative provides additional funds that could be used to prevent crime, for example by providing secure on-street motorcycle parking.

Any anti-theft measures need to be far more prominent so people know what is going on and do not take matters into their own hands. There are myths and misunderstandings on social media that we hope the police will address, such as how they deal with the removal of helmets or what the official policy is regarding tactical contacts.

Leeds & Bradford MAG will continue to campaign strongly for the authorities to take motorcycle theft more seriously. One of our own committee members had his bike stolen in February 2023. We hope that these latest stats will cause motorcycle theft to be given a higher priority by all agencies involved in reducing theft. We attempted to organize a session to discuss this issue with Alison Lowe, the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime. She was unavailable on our proposed date and we are disappointed that her office did not propose an alternative. We will continue to press for a new date to be agreed.