A CCTV camera failed to record the theft of three bikes in Peterborough city centre because trees obscured the view, police have revealed.
The cycles, worth a total of £1,000, were stolen from a bicycle rack in Bridge Street between Peterborough Magistrates’ Court and Bridge Street police station.
But owner Dave Atkinson (36), of Whittelsey, was stunned to be told by police that a nearby CCTV camera did not have any footage of the theft because the foliage of nearby trees had hidden the scene.
A police spokesman said; “CCTV was viewed for the time of the theft but the rack where the cycle had been locked up was blocked by the trees.”
He added: “We can’t just lop or cut trees down. The cameras and their use is controlled by Peterborough City Council.”
A council spokesman confirmed the foliage of the trees does partially obscure the view of the camera.
He said: “Our contractors will be assessing the view from the camera and make any relevant adjustments where necessary.
“The camera operates in a panoramic mode, capturing images covering a 360 degree view along Bridge Street.
“Police examined more than two hours of footage and no one was seen with cycles that matched the description of those stolen.
Mr Atkinson said: “It is just amazing that nobody had spotted that the view was blocked until something like this happened.
“The whole idea of having CCTV in the city centre is to cut out this sort of crime.”
Mr Atkinson had cycled into the city with his wife Rose (43) and sons Liam (14) and Josh (13) on August 26.
They locked their bikes up outside the Sue Ryder charity shop in Bridge Street and they went to get some food from East at 1.30pm.
They then walked past the bikes at 3.15pm on their way back into town. When they returned to get the bikes at 4pm, the locks had been broken and three of the bikes were stolen.
Rose’s bicycle was left on the floor, unlocked, while the other three had been taken.
Josh’s bike was a birthday present that he had received just two weeks earlier.
The thieves left the two broken locks that had been used to lock up all four bikes on the floor.
Mr Atkinson said:“If something is not safe near the police station and the law courts it’s a sad reflection on life in our city.”
The theft of the three cycles is just the tip of the iceberg of a rising number of bike thefts.
Figures released by the police show there were 93 bike thefts between April 1, 2011 and September 3, 2011.
However, for the corresponding dates for this year the same area saw 138 thefts - an increase of 48.4 per cent.
Thefts rose most sharply in August as more people used their bikes and Cambridgeshire police have said they have put a renewed focus on Operation Warlock to combat the increase.
Operation Warlock was a successful crackdown on cycle crime in the city centre launched in November 2010.
It involves increasing patrols in bike theft hot-spots through days of action.
Two patrols took place on Thursday and Friday last week which led to six arrests.
Pc Graham Frisby said: “We have seen an increase in cycle theft in the city centre and have launched the operation to reduce this type of crime.
“We will continue plain-clothed patrols in the city centre to catch them in the act and arrest outstanding suspects.
“It is worth investing to protect your property.
“Many of the thefts happen in busy areas in the middle of the afternoon.
“These are busy areas filled with shoppers and it is important that people call police on 999 when they see such brazen thefts taking place.
“Bikes are often seen as an easy target for thieves, but there are precautions cyclists can take to prevent becoming a victim.”
“We would encourage them to buy good quality locks, not cheap products which can be easily cut or ripped off.”
Nathan Foster, store manager at Woodston Cycles, said: “We have had a lot of people coming in saying their bikes were nicked.
“On Monday we had six people saying their bikes had been stolen from the train station.”
Mr Foster added: “Bikes being stolen is a common problem but it has spiked recently.”
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What is operation Warlock?
A renewed focus was placed on dealing with bicycle thefts in the city centre last week.
After revealing the worrying theft figures to the Peterborough Telegraph on Monday, Cambridgeshire police said that last Thursday they had put a “renewed focus” on Operation Warlock.
The operation involves plain-clothed officers patrolling areas where there are high numbers of bike thefts.
Two days of action on Thursday and Friday saw six people arrested in the city centre for a variety of offences, including bike theft.
A police spokesman said: “We have since recovered five bikes. A 30-year-old man was charged with two thefts while a 26-year-old man was charged with one theft.
Both will appear in court later this month.”