Posting CCTV footage and contacting suspected thieves

Emotions run high after you’re a victim of bike theft (or any crime). Below are some of the key items to be aware of, to stop you going down the wrong path. In particular there can be implications with posting CCTV footage online and approaching suspected bike thieves.

CCTV footage and social media

So you have followed the steps on what to do if your bike has been stolen, which includes tracking down any CCTV footage. If you manage to directly source footage, it should only then be shared with the police.

Speaking to Stolen Ride, Mark Cleland (Superintendent at British Transport Police and Cycle Crime Lead for the UK) explains why:

“Posting CCTV online rather than giving it immediately to the police may result in the bike being offloaded quicker as there is an association of the bike and the thief.

“Passing the CCTV quickly to the police means that local thieves can be identified as the neighbourhood teams tend to know the majority of their local offenders.”

Other things to be aware of regarding sharing CCTV footage:

  • You (or the company/person you sourced the footage from) might have breached data protection laws, depending on the situation. The ICO provides data protection information.
  • The footage might show innocent people and be misinterpreted. Which could damage reputations and lives via a ‘trial on social media’.
  • Whilst unlikely for the level of crime, it may affect the criminal justice system if the offender is caught and the case goes to court and in front of an impartial jury. In 2017 the RPC researched this topic and the impacts which can be read here.

Many organisations and authorities will have set procedures regarding the release of CCTV footage. For example, here is the policy for Tower Hamlets’ council, which includes who can view the footage and for what purpose, making special note to the Data Protection legislation.

The police force do sometimes publically release CCTV footage of crimes, including bicycle thefts, to identify criminals and locate witnesses. But this is usually released via their channels (on social media or via an official press release). They do often edit the footage before the release.

The police will be able to advise on the best approach on a case by case basis.

Approaching a suspected bike thief yourself

We’re constantly reminded that ‘organised bike thieves’ are rarely involved in just the theft of bikes. They can be part of gangs and connected to other more serious crimes, such as ‘County Lines’ drug dealing.

Mark Cleland mentions the following if you have found your stolen bike for sale online:

“Initial contact should be made by Police only.

“Good advice for the victim is to obtain as much info as they can if they see the bike advertised, screen shot EVERYTHING if there are different photos, screenshot the page numerous times with each photo shown, note the date the bike was listed, note sellers’ names and numbers separately as these tend to change.

“Put the package together with prints of your own registration logbook and any other information around your bike, photos, photos showing parts that you have changed etc. from where it’s been registered with a bike registration scheme.

“Make sure the bike is registered as stolen on any bike registration scheme such as BikeRegister even if only with a frame number (can be added to the register and marked stolen retrospectively).”

If you have been a victim of cycle theft, do read our 5 step guide on what to do.