Bike thefts have surged amid the rising popularity of cycling during the pandemic.
Police have dealt with 42 reports of bikes stolen in Aberdeen city since the start of April this year, with a range of inexpensive mountain bikes to top-of-the-range models being targeted.
And thieves are even swiping electric bikes which can cost more than £1,000 to buy brand new.
Jenni Taylor, the police sergeant currently running Operation Lathe in relation to city bike thefts, said: “Sales of bikes went up a lot last year and subsequently the theft of them went up with that.
“Obviously in lockdown people weren’t allowed to travel but we were allowed to exercise, so more people were out on about with bikes, chaining them up and taking them in and out of sheds and such.
“So unfortunately there was an increase in theft, which is why the operation has been put on this year to try and do what we can.”
Operation Lathe focuses on tackling bicycle and motorbike theft within Aberdeen.
It runs every year from May until the end of August, the months most notorious for bike thefts.
The purpose of the project is to have a designated team who are always on hand to react quickly to reports of theft.
This both alleviates the pressure on the main police division and means that incidents can be investigated with speed and specificity.
As part of the operation, officers work in plain clothes and also carry out high visibility patrols to deter and disrupt thefts.
The project was cancelled last year due to Covid-19. Meanwhile, a pandemic-induced cycling boom has inevitably meant more targets for thieves.
The Operation Lathe team has recovered 27 bikes since April but has only managed to trace eight back to being stolen.
The other 19 are currently being held until the rightful owners can be identified. Five individuals have been charged in relation to the crimes.
“Sometimes all we have to go on is ‘black mountain bike’, and how many black mountain bikes are out there?” said Jenni.
“And other times the bikes we find haven’t even been reported stolen, or the owners don’t know that they are missing yet, so it can be difficult.
“We actually recovered an electric bike recently and managed to get it back to the owner, and it was £2,500 that bike cost so the owner was very pleased.
“It had been stolen a month previous but because of the very detailed description she provided when it was found we were quickly able to identify that this bike belonged to her.”
Not all tales of bike theft end in good news, however.
One teenager’s bicycle was stolen in broad daylight last month, despite being chained up in a public place in the middle of the city centre.
“I was so disappointed when I saw it had been taken,” 17-year-old Miku Rjatin said.
“I’ve had my bike for nearly two years and always look after it and chain it up properly.
“It was chained up on a bike rack in full view and was stolen in the middle of the day – I don’t know what more I could have done to prevent it.”
Miku used his bike every day to travel to Robert Gordon’s College.
On the day it was taken, the grey Carrera Subway 1 was locked up directly outside the school where he parked it every day.
“It was right next to my friend’s bike, but his wasn’t taken,” he said.
“I think they could see that mine was better quality and had expensive gears which I’d added on.
“I called the police right away who said they would check nearby CCTV, but so far they’ve found nothing.
“It’s really annoying, I’ve got exams at the moment and other things to concentrate on at home, so I could do without this.”
The teenager says he would like to see dedicated and secure bicycle parking installed in Aberdeen city centre which could be patrolled regularly by police and monitored by CCTV.
Not only would this encourage people to use bikes he says, but it would discourage criminals from targeting that area.
“Without proper secure bike parking, I don’t know what more can be done,” he said.