The great stolen motorcycle recovery swindle
The joy of finding your stolen bike has been found is soon tempered by discovering there can be hefty charges involved in getting it back.
Here in Part 1, Marc Ryan gets to the bottom of a state-sanctioned mugging in recovered stolen bikes.
In Part 2, he meets a group of motorcycle heroes from Bristol who are doing something about it.
Bike theft and gangs of kids on stolen mopeds aren’t exclusive to London, they’re a pox in many cities around the country. Recently there have been some outstandingly pointless incidents.
Stories abound of despicable acts, such as a volunteer’s Blood Bike being stolen in Liverpool and a vintage Triumph Thunderbird stolen, ransomed and burned, with the images posted to social media to taunt the owner.
The cause is often young kids with nothing better to do. From as young as 13 and up, have nick any bike they can find, thrashing them around for laughs and dumping and sometimes burning them. They do it for fun and notoriety on social media.
The police are underfunded and thin on the ground. Sometimes when they do stumble upon a thief these little turds don’t even try to escape but would rather goad the police to chase them. They know the cops are rarely allowed to pursue or knock them off. On the rare occasions they’re caught they’re seldom charged. Those few that are, and found guilty, face minimal consequences.
Another scenario is that a ‘professional’ tealeaf takes a bike, quietly moves it to a hiding place a couple of streets away (just in case it has a tracker installed) with the intention of coming back later to hotwire and ride it away. You can read more about this in What to do if your bike is stolen.
The fallout for towns and cities that are blighted by these problems is a large number of bikes that are eventually found and need reuniting with their owners.
A hidden cost of motorcycle theft
That’s the backstory. But the real story here is what happens next if you are lucky enough to get a call saying your bike has been found.
For a long time, the process has been that if a dumped stolen bike is located and is rideable the police will attempt to contact the owner. If the owner is available to come and collect the bike the police will endeavour to stay with the bike for a reasonable amount of time. But you know, they’re busy people. If the owner can’t be contacted they’ll call one of a number of designated recovery companies to come and collect the bike. The companies charge a nationally set £150 to pick up the bike and then £10-a-day storage until the owner collects it.
These companies don’t have a perfect record for actually contacting people, they send letters (Letters! In this day and age?) to the address on the V5 document. The storage cost can really escalate if the registered keeper doesn’t get the letter or has moved and not updated their details with the DVLA. The owner meets the cost and it’s up to them to claim it from their insurers.
Does your policy cover recovery in the event of theft? Did you check that when you carefully read through the terms and conditions? I haven’t got a clue what my T&Cs say.
Scuppered by the law
This sounds like a complete racket but the recovery companies are running a business and they have costs to cover. The government actually determines the charges in the Removal, Storage and Disposal of Vehicles Regulations 2008. Even if the companies wanted to charge less, they couldn’t, as legislation binds them. It is effectively a state-sanctioned mugging. Legislation which is ten years old and there are discussions as to whether it’s time for a price hike.
If a bike is found and the police can’t get hold of the owner they’ll arrange for a recovery company to pick it up. Let’s say the owner might be away on holiday. They get home and report their bike as stolen or find a letter telling them their bike was nicked, recovered and they now owe a few hundred quid to the recovery company. If the bike is undamaged and has just been moved, the owner might justifiably feel that it’s the police and recovery company that’s stolen the bike and is holding it hostage.
Even if their insurance policy covers this kind of thing is it worth making a claim? The combination of voluntary and compulsory excess and the potential loss of no claims bonus make it cheaper to just bite the bullet and pay out of their own pocket. If an owner can’t get their insurance company to pay or can’t afford the fees themselves there is the potential for the bike to be crushed.
You can avoid paying fees under certain circumstances. See our advice article: https://www.bikerandbike.co.uk/how-to-avoid-police-charges-for-recovering-your-stolen-motorbike/
Its better than losing your bike completely. Just
Getting your stolen bike back is obviously better than losing it entirely. Scooters and 125s get stolen most. The owners of which are often already struggling under the weight of finance payments and gigantic insurance fees. The repercussions of losing a bike can be severe. Losing their transport might also mean losing income, their job or place at college.
To add insult to injury there are growing numbers of little shitbags posting selfies on social media of themselves riding around on stolen bikes, ripping around the streets till 2 a.m. disturbing the peace and riding like dangerous little wankers. At that point, you will be wanting to get your bike back no matter what the cost.
Unsurprisingly there’s a growing feeling among the victims of bike theft that they are being let down by the lack of policing, by the legal system that makes few prosecutions, screwed over by recovery charges laid out by the government and assfucked by insurance policies that make it almost pointless making a claim.
This was the background behind the emergence of Facebook groups formed to raise awareness of bike crime and noisy antisocial behaviour in Bristol. In Part 2, I meet a group of bikers from Bristol who are determined to help owners recover their bikes, without being mugged by Government rules.
Get yourself sorted:
Quickly check your insurance policy and see if you are covered for the recovery and storage fees if the motorcycle is stolen then found.