Pay for police to investigate bike theft

Published: 23 May 2007

Owners of stolen bikes are told they must pay a £105 recovery fee when it is found or else police will not investigate fully.

The fee, set by the Home Office, is for transportation by a private company to purpose built facilities where a forensic examination can be carried out. Storage fees of £12 a day are added.

A standardised police letter, approved by the Home Office, warns owners that, should they recover the bike themselves, police will be “unable to take further action to identify the person who took it.”

The letter says police automatically recover vehicles upon locating them and warns owners against recovering them should they locate them first. MCN has learned that some police forces do not automatically recover stolen vehicles, instead giving owners the option of recovering them themselves in the first instance.

It means victims are routinely given a choice between paying the fee, in which case a forensic examination in purpose built facilities can be carried out, or not paying it and taking the bike home, in which case it cannot.  

The basic recovery fee could soon rise to £150 under proposals in a Home Office consultation paper. Daily storage fees are set to rise to £20 in London and £15 elsewhere. Charges in Scotland are already £150 for recovery and £20 daily for storage.

Shadow Police Reform Minister Nick Herbert said: “Police services should be free to victims of crime. No-one should have to pay for the privilege of being a victim of crime.”

Read the Home Office approved police letter, supplied to MCN by the Association of Chief Police Officers, below. For details of forces that routinely give theft victims the option of recovering bikes themselves, and to see arguments for and against the police recovery fee, get MCN, Wednesday May 23, 2007.

See the Home Office’s consultation paper on raising the charges here: www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/stat-charges-index/


THE LETTER

For The Attention Of 
 
Dear 
 
You have reported your vehicle as stolen. The police will make every effort to get it back for you.  This letter is to tell you what will happen when we have found it.
 
Immediately on discovery of your vehicle, we will make arrangements for our contracted recovery operator to remove it to safe keeping.  All police contracted recovery operators are required to have appropriate expertise and equipment and to meet specified performance targets, including speed of attendance.  The removal is important to protect the vehicle from further theft or vandalism, to ensure it cannot be used for other criminal purposes and to prevent it from being an obstruction or danger to members of the public and from being driven whilst in a possibly dangerous condition.  Safe removal also means that we can subject it to a forensic examination in an effort to identify the person who took it. 
 
Police powers to arrange for the removal of vehicles from public roads are contained in Section 99 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 and the Removal and Disposal of Vehicles Regulations 1986 as amended.
 
As soon as your vehicle has been recovered, we will tell you where it is being kept.  To collect it, you or your insurer (depending on your policy) will have to pay prescribed charges to the recovery operator as our agent.  This is to meet the costs of removal and storage.  At present [date] these charges are £105 for the removal and £12 per day for storage.  The period for which a storage charge is payable begins the day after that on which you are informed the vehicle is available for collection.  The charges are set by the Removal, Storage and Disposal of Vehicles (Prescribed Sums and Charges etc)(Amendment) Regulations 1993.
 
If, before we find and remove your vehicle, you locate it yourself and arrange its removal, you must do so at your own risk.  You could be liable if it is unsafe or unroadworthy.  We therefore recommend that you leave the vehicle where it is and inform us without delay.  If you do take charge of it, you should arrange a comprehensive check by a garage of your choice before it is driven. Once you have taken charge of the vehicle, the [name of Police Force] accepts no further responsibility for it or its contents and will be unable to take further action to identify the person who took it.
 
Further information on our policy and practice as regards stolen vehicles is available on the Force website [details].