£175k bikes stolen in Staffordshire as thieves use GPS technology
Cyclists who use mobile phone apps and websites to plan, track and share their rides are being targeted by thieves using the technology to pinpoint their homes and steal their high-performance bikes.
More than 370 high-value bicycles have been stolen in Staffordshire in four months.
Detectives said riders were using GPS technology so precise, thieves were able to identify, and then target, their houses.
They today warned cyclists, across the south of the county in particular, to be vigilant.
Bicycles worth almost £175,000 were stolen from areas including Cannock, Rugeley, Burntwood, Wombourne, Lichfield, Stafford and Stone.
The average cost of each one stolen is about £468. Staffordshire Police warned riders to check their privacy settings on cycling smart phone applications and websites.
Sgt Dave Morris said that there had been an increase in the number of high-value cycles being stolen from sheds and outbuildings.
"Our investigations have shown that some of the victims had been using websites and mobile phone apps to log their routes – these sites allow users to view each others routes and track their rides," he said.
"Some of the GPS data recorded and shared on these sites is so accurate you can pinpoint the house where the journeys have begun and ended.
"We suspect some thieves have been using these sites to identify potential victims and high-value bikes."
Sgt Morris said some of the riders were sharing their routes on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, allowing for even more people to see the details. He said cyclists could be inadvertently alerting would-be thieves to their addresses and "advertising" the location of bikes.
"Users are urged to check the privacy settings of any apps they use and avoid using Twitter and Facebook to share maps of their routes as they could potentially identify their home addresses," he added.
"Alternatively, they can opt to start the tracking function a few streets away from their home address and stop again before returning home."
A crackdown has now been launched under Operation Impact, a force wide crackdown on robbery and burglary.
More than 370 bikes were stolen between September and December last year.
Cyclists can also sign up to free property register Immobilise.