ORGANISED crime gangs are targeting cyclists and stealing bikes worth thousands of pounds, it has been claimed after Southend was named as Essex’s bike-theft hotspot.

According to new figures, 2,158 bikes have been reported stolen in Southend since 2018 - the highest number across the whole of the county.

Keen cyclist, Adam Jones, was left in a “state of disbelief, anger, and despair” after £12,000 worth of bikes were stolen from his home by thieves in 2018.

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Mr Jones, who rides a series of high-performance bikes, believes that organised gangs are targeting cyclists in Essex and further afield and fears even posting images on social media could make you a target.

He said: “It is used as an opportunity for organised criminals now, particularly because of the value of bikes.

“Some can be more expensive than a motorbike and in some cases a car, depending on the brand.

“It isn’t just the frame itself, but what is bolted on to it, all the parts can be extremely valuable if you strip the bike down.

“The bike industry is at a level, where it is presenting itself as a problem.”

Mr Jones has since taken extreme measures to protect his bike, like many other riders.

He stresses how even just posting a picture of your bike on social media, or on Strava publicly with the route to your address can give criminals the information they want and need.

Mr Jones added: “It is sad to be in this position. It isn’t just about stealing someone’s pride and joy, and a key part of their hobby. For a lot of bike riders they use it for charity, and to raise money to help others.

“They are valuable too, if you have saved up for years for something, and someone steals it, it is a lot of emotional impact too.

“I have become quite paranoid about this happening again. You live in fear.

“A lot come equipped too, crow bars, power tools, potentially the risk to the individual bike owner to protect their property is very serious.”

According to an Essex Police Freedom of Information request, 218 bikes were stolen in Southend in 2023. However the number has been steadily falling over the past five years, since 492 were reported in the city in 2018.