Thieves are said to be stealing bicycles to order in communities across Aberdeen.
There has been a spike in thefts in areas such as Seaton, Tillydrone and Kittybrewster, with a number of high value cycles taken.
The spate of incidents has prompted police in the city to launch a new campaign in an effort to educate the public about the issue and crack down on those responsible.
Sergeant Rae Christie from the Seaton and Tillydrone community policing team said that in the coming weeks officers will look to utilise data on criminal activity hotspots and then conduct targeted patrols in those areas.
There will also be a dedicated social media campaign and leaflet drops to advise cyclists of the measures and what they can do to keep their property safe.
A similar initiative – dubbed Operation Curator – was launched in Edinburgh in August to combat an increase in similar thefts in the north-east of the city.
During the two-month scheme, 81 stolen bikes worth more than £70,000 were recovered.
Statistics obtained by The P&J through Freedom of Information legislation show that, of the police patches in the north and north-east, Aberdeen North was the most frequently targeted by thieves.
A total of 153 bicycles were reported stolen between 2018 and 2019, and 132 between 2019 and 2020 – across the whole city, however, those figures almost doubled.
Figures released in October, meanwhile, revealed fewer than 10% of all bicycles stolen across Scotland have been reunited with their owners.
Of the near 10,000 bikes taken since 2018, only 1,000 have been found by the police and returned to their owners.
At a meeting of Rosemount Community Council this week, council co-leader Jenny Laing said the issue had also affected those living in her ward.
She said: “I had one man contact me after his bike was stolen.
“It was locked up in George Street and it appears the thieves cut the secure chains around it.
“It would seem they were stealing it to order or they definitely know what it was they were after.
“There are more people cycling now because of active travel and coronavirus – so there are more bikes ‘available’ to these thieves.”
Rosemount and Mile End Community Council vice-chairman Alasdair Stevenson said a pupil at Aberdeen Grammar School had their secured bike stolen only last week.
“Heavy duty bolt cutters and battery-operated angle grinders made short work of the padlocks,” he warned.
In recent years there has been a concerted effort to encourage people to ditch journeys on four wheels in favour of “active travel” by cycling or walking.
But, despite the increasing trend, the figures have shown a slight decline in thefts in some areas.
Last year, police recorded 51 fewer bike thefts in Aberdeen than in 2018, while fewer than 40 bicycles are stolen each year in Aberdeenshire – though there too very few are returned.
Both the police and representatives at Aberdeen Cycle Forum say preparation is the best way to put a stop to bicycle thefts.
Chairwoman for Aberdeen Cycle Forum, Rachel Martin, said: “My best advice would be to invest in an expensive lock and secure it around the frame.
“Often thieves won’t target the whole bike, but instead go after parts.
“Registering your frame number with the national database BikeRegister and having pictures of your cycle is also really helpful for authorities if it is stolen.”