Police to give free bikes to offenders

SUFFOLK police came under fire last night after plans were unveiled to hand prolific offenders previously stolen bicycles – for free.

Critics have labelled the scheme “absurd” and claim it is an insult to victims of crime.

However, the force has strongly defended its plans – saying the “Re-cycling Cycles” initiative will give ex-offenders a means of transport so they can go out to find jobs. The scheme will be trialled in Ipswich and could then be rolled out across the rest of the county.

At the moment, any unclaimed lost, stolen or found bicycles are usually auctioned off under the Police Property Act.

However, in the new initiative they will be identified and stored for offenders, and Norfolk and Suffolk Probation Trust will then make applications for the bikes on behalf of priority offenders.

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The cycles will then be handed over at no cost to the recipients.

Fiona McEvoy, grassroots manager for the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said the scheme could encourage thefts in the future.

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“This absurd scheme just legitimises the initial bike theft, with offenders benefiting directly from crime,” she said.

“In some cases, Suffolk police could even be handing the bike back to the very person who stole it, which isn’t much of a deterrent to would-be thieves.

“The victims of bike crime will be astonished and it looks as though the police are making a rod for their own back.”

Meanwhile, keen cyclist Dave Brady, 29, of Bury St Edmunds, who now stores his �3,000 mountain bike in his living room after a spate of thefts in the area, said the move was “an insult to the victims of crime”.

“It is ridiculous,” the design engineer said. “These offenders should not be rewarded and subsidised by the innocent people who have lost possessions and probably never even had compensation.

“I can understand their motive, but why should those who chose to lead a life of crime get any extra help. Give them a pair of trainers and they can walk.”

The applications will be looked at on a “case-by-case” basis and only given to prolific and other priority offenders (PPOs) for whom a bike would be beneficial.

There will be a disclaimer on the cycles, meaning they will be removed from the offender and given back to their rightful owner if they are traced.

Detective Inspector Richard Crabtree, of Ipswich CID, who came up with the scheme, said the bikes should not be seen as free gifts and would not be given out to every offender.

‘’This is a well-intended scheme and an holistic approach to assist individuals –who, for whatever reason, have been on the wrong side of the law – gain meaningful employment,” he said.

“This initiative allows us to work with and support our partners in the probation service to try to break the cycle of repeat offending.”

He said bikes would only be offered to individuals who were fully engaged with the police and the probation service and were deemed as suitable to receive this kind of intervention to help with their rehabilitation.

“We want to provide a way of encouraging offenders to gain employment, taking them away from their criminal lifestyles and encouraging them to positively contribute towards society,” he said.

Victoria Woods, senior probation officer for the Norfolk and Suffolk Probation Trust, said: “Finding employment can have a positive influence on people seeking to address their offending behaviour.

“ Often the lack of independent transport prevents some people from securing permanent positions. This scheme will hopefully address this shortfall.”

Editorial comment – Page 39

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