A family-run bike shop in Forest Hill has become a victim to a smash and grab attack – but the thief accidentally turned himself in using GPS.
Finches Emporium, in Perry Vale, had its shop front smashed and an £8,000 bike stolen in the early hours of last Thursday, while the family and their two young children were asleep upstairs.
Kelsey Finch, 31, who has a one-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter, said: “We were all asleep upstairs and got woken up by a massive crash.
“We saw on CCTV footage the next day that at around 9pm a man started playing around with the outside of the shop until he managed to lift the edges of the shutters on the side.
“He left but came back at around 1.20am.
“It was then that he climbed under the shutters like a curtain and smashed the window with a scaffolding pole.
“Within three minutes he had grabbed a bike that cost £8,000 and got out.”
The family business – that has been open throughout the pandemic as an essential service – has been around since 1947 and is run by Frank and Angela Finch and their two children Kelsey and Bradley.
The family put out an appeal on social media for anyone with information but were amazed when GPS tracking led them straight to the stolen mountain bike.
Bradley Finch, 33, said: “The beauty is we accidentally gave a customer who had bought the same type of bike the wrong code for their GPS tracker.
“We had a phone call from a customer to say his bike had been reported as moving at 2 o’clock in the morning but when he checked on it, it was still in his house.
“We then realised that it was the stolen bike – and it was all the way in a block of flats in Tower Hamlets.
“We contacted the police and I drove up that afternoon to meet them.
“The bike was named ‘Foxy’ on the GPS system and it flashed up saying “Foxy’s had an accident” then the bike started moving on the GPS app.
“I tracked the movement of the bike with the officers but we couldn’t work out how it was moving so fast, until we realised it must have been in the back of a vehicle.
“The bike was then found in a parked truck on route to Essex.”
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police confirmed that a male suspect was arrested on suspicion of burglary in connection with the stolen bike and has been released under further investigation.
Angela Finch, 60, said: “We have always felt safe – we have had one break-in in the last ten years.”
We really didn’t feel vulnerable, so this break in was a massive shock.
“We have been working throughout the pandemic as an essential business and this man broke into our shop at a time when small businesses everywhere are struggling in the middle of a pandemic – it is horrible to think about.”
New police data revealed this week that just 1.1 per cent of bike theft crimes in London led to the thief being identified.
In Lewisham, there has been 514 bike thefts during the first six months of Covid restrictions – but the conviction rate is only 2.16 per cent.
Experts have also warned that there could be an increase in bicycle theft as criminals target new cyclists who bought bikes during lockdown.
Nick Titchener, criminal defence solicitor at London law firm Lawtons Solicitors, said: “Bike theft is definitely becoming more of a problem, and the numbers are a testament to this.
“Unfortunately, suspects aren’t being identified because there’s usually no relationship between themselves and the victim and it’s a relatively low-priority crime.
“On top of this, owners often don’t document the ownership of their bike, making it difficult to prosecute even if the perpetrator is caught.
“It’s essential that you document your bike to help you recover it in the case of theft.
“Keep your receipt, make a record of the serial number and register your bike with a bicycle marking and registration scheme.
“This will enable the police to trace your bike back to you if it is stolen and recovered.”
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