A policeman who posed as a thief to repeatedly steal a bike with bolt croppers in a busy street was left stunned when – no one intervened.
PCSO Neil Spiring used brute force – and giant chain cutters – to steal a locked bike from a busy high street on four occasions.
But he was left exasperated when more than 50 people strolled past without questioning him and no one reported the crime by dialing 999.
PCSO Spiring was not stopped or questioned by any of the dozens of passers-by – even when he donned a skeleton outfit to take the cycle in Bristol city centre.
He even stopped a passing cyclist and asked her to hold the bolt croppers – but she simply replied “err … no” and walked away.
Avon and Somerset police carried out an experiment to test public reaction to “blatant” crimes which take place in broad daylight.
Officers filmed the shocking incidents to encourage witnesses to come forward and report crime.
Inspector Keith Rundle from the force said the number of people who had witnessed the ‘crimes’ exceeded 50.
He added: “We’re not suggesting that anyone become a ‘have-a-go hero’ but we’re asking people to call 999 and report bike theft as soon as they see it happening so we can catch the bike thieves in the act.”
“We are constantly on the lookout for bike thieves but we also need the community to be vigilant and to call us if they see a crime happening.
“Our message today is if you see anything suspicious call 999 and let us know. The faster you let us know the more likely we are to be able to catch the thief.”
The footage shows PCSO Spiring locking his black bike to a full cycle rack in Bristol’s busy main shopping area.
PCSO Spiring, wearing a green hoodie, tracksuit bottoms and a baseball cap, returns to the rack a few minutes later and crouches by the bike.
He then removes a pair of bolt cutters and loudly cuts the bike lock, before brazenly strolling off with the cycle.
In his second attempt, PCSO Spiring carries a giant pair of bolt cutters over his shoulder and again cuts and removes the bike.
As he walks off, the police officer asked a female cyclist who has just removed her bike from the rack to hold the large pair of cutters.
She ignores him at first, before muttering “err.. no” and pushing past to continue with her day.
PCSO Spiring then dons an eye-catching skeleton outfit and creeps round the street before pouncing on the bike and ‘stealing’ it again.
Finally, the officer walks up to the rack and uses brute force to rip the bike away from the rack and its lock.
A spokeswoman for Avon and Somerset police said bikes were “attractive” to thieves because they are high value an left on streets – often without “adequate” locks.
She added: “Bikes are often not identifiable if the owner hasn’t marked or registered them, meaning once a thief leaves the scene it’s difficult for police to prove the bike doesn’t belong to the thief.
“We use various tactics to reduce bike theft including undercover surveillance operations to catch thieves in the act, high-visibility patrols in hot-spot areas and roadshows and cycle surgeries to educate cyclists about how to keep their bike safe.”
The force recommends using two different lock types, making sure that removable parts of the bikes are either taken or secured to the frame and electronic tagging.
It also advises cyclists to lock their bikes to an official stand that is firmly in the ground and register property online at www.immobilise.com.