Reducing cycle theft across the University estate

In 2013 between seven and ten bikes on average were being stolen each week in Oxford. ‘The figures,’ says Belinda Hopkins, Crime Prevention Design Advisor for the University’s Security Services, ‘were shockingly high and making cycle theft the biggest category of crime on the University estate.’

The campaign to reduce those numbers began with looking at the data analysis. This including checking to see if a particular time of year and time of day could be established for when most bikes were being stolen, and identifying where bikes were being parked and how they were being secured.

The Challenges: 

The analysis revealed that cycle theft was almost negligible in the summer and increased significantly in the autumn – coinciding with the influx of new students – and that it peaked between 2pm and 6pm. ‘We discovered that many students were bringing new and expensive bikes with them,’ explains Belinda. ‘However, many students had scrimped on the lock by using the cheapest of cable locks and then not using them to lock their valuable bikes as securely as possible.  We needed to find a way to address this.’

 The Solutions: 

A number of initiatives followed. Security Services attended University Open Days and the annual Freshers’ Fair to educate new students about cycle crime, how to avoid it and to also encourage them to bring older bikes to University.

A series of pop-up cycle events were introduced across the University estate with a focus on raising awareness about the risks of bike theft, and the measures students and staff can take to reduce their chance of becoming a victim. The events included advice on how to lock bikes to a secure immovable object, preferably a bike rack, in well-lit and well-used hot spots.

To encourage the use of D Locks, the Security Services team negotiated the bulk purchase of good quality D Locks and now sell them at a subsidised rate to students and staff. To assist with cycle safety they also sell portable bike lights and flashing leg and arm bands.

A cycle registration scheme was also set up to help students register their bike details. In the unfortunate event of a bike being stolen this enables it to be returned to its owner if it is ever recovered.

CCTV monitoring remains vigilant and patrols of areas known to be hotspots for theft were increased and are now patrolled frequently.


The number of cycles being stolen in Oxford and around the University estate has now reduced dramatically and now averages at two to three a week. Says Belinda: ‘This is a very positive outcome and we’re constantly looking at ways to further reduce thefts and improve this figure. Selling subsidised D Locks has proved extremely successful and to date we’ve sold over 2,000. We believe this is a major contributor to the decrease in cycle theft.’

Security Services continuously work in partnership with Thames Valley Police to tackle the problem of bike theft and, says Sergeant Russell Stevenson, that’s made an impact:

‘Cycle theft accounts for the largest volume of crime in Oxford. Due to a variety of factors, it is a very difficult crime to solve unless police catch a thief in the act.

‘Oxford University is a key partner and we’ve seen a real benefit from this. Being able to utilise University CCTV has proven invaluable, as has security staff being able to radio through live incidents to the police CCTV control room.

‘An information-sharing protocol on suspect descriptions and photographs has resulted in several successful identifications, and our regular security meetings bolster the partnership and help us share best practice and future planning of how to tackle this crime.’

Published August 2015