Life on bikes

UK far from the worst for motorcycle theft

European motorcycle theft statistics show many countries have a worse problem with bike theft than the UK. Except for the Dutch, who potentially offer a solution.

In the UK we might think we have a significant problem with the theft of motorcycles, but other countries have it just as bad, if not worse.

The problem is particularly bad on the European mainland, where the superb road network and lack of borders mean stolen bikes quickly go into organised crime networks. The gangs will either strip a bike for its parts or give the bike a new identity and have it for sale in an Eastern European country in a matter of days.

The United States

Before we looked at our European neighbours, we took a look at the figures in the US. And we got a shock

The country Hollywood would have you believe is difficult not to get murdered in has a lower number of motorcycles stolen per head of population than European countries that are a fraction of its size.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reported that in 2016 a total of 46,467 motorcycles were reported stolen, a slight increase on the previous year. At 0.000014%, this is drop in the ocean as a percentage of population size (US pop. 323m).

Compare that to France (pop. 67m) with 55,400 motorcycle thefts and Italy (pop 60m) also 55,000, and it’s clear there is a problem on the Continent.

By contrast, only 27,217 motorcycles and scooters were stolen in the same period in the UK, which has a population roughly similar to France.

A massive caveat here: This is a false figure as Powered Two Wheelers stolen as part of a burglary – where the keys are taken – are not counted as ‘stolen vehicle’ for statistics purposes. It’s worth remembering, though, that until recently at least, 80% of motorcycle thefts are from the home location.



In France, the Observatory of Vol 2 Roues, publishes motorcycle crime statistics, which after a slight drop in 2016 show a marked increase in 2017. In fact, at 55,400 thefts in that year, a motorcycle is stolen roughly every nine minutes in France.

Particularly badly hit is the BMW R1200 GS – in some regions there has been a 3 x increase in thefts of the hugely popular model.

The motorcycle theft problem has become so acute that in some French cities, Marseille, for example, insurers refuse to insure for Theft, according to French comparison site Kelassur.


Although we’ve focused on the countries with a similar population size to the UK, it’s worth noting the situation in Holland.

Unlike the French, the Dutch are doing something right, until 2016 at least. Year-on-year theft dropped by around 9% and in the previous decade dropped by 25%.

Amsterdam saw 377 motorbike thefts in 2015, around one per day. Contrast that with London at that time, admittedly a city with ten times the population, with 27 thefts per day. The latest figures for London indicate the number of motorcycle thefts is now 41 per day.

This actually shouldn’t be a surprise. Dutch crime rates overall are astonishingly low. To the point they are closing prisons, 20 since 2013, because there aren’t enough criminals to fill them. Seriously.

Part of the explanation is that, although Dutch criminals rarely receive a lengthy prison sentence, considerably fewer of them re-offend after serving their sentences, certainly compared to other countries. This is because the Dutch system favours rehabilitation over punishment.

Could the same approach be applied to the ‘feral’ moped gangs that plague London, Bristol and other cities? As long as similar sociological and economic deprivation issues exist in both countries, there’s no reason to believe otherwise.



In Italy, a motorcycle or scooter is stolen at least every 9-10 minutes – 55,000 in 2014 alone, the latest statistic we could find. We say ‘at least’ because the increase over statistics in previous years is significant – from 39,445 in 2010 and 42,538 in 2012.

In the four years since the last results, as Italy continues to have economic difficulties, we can only expect the numbers to have risen further still. The rise in thefts came at the same time as a sharp decline in sales, from 307,103 in 2010 to just 206,552 two years later.

The cities most at risk are Rome, Naples, Milan, Palermo and Genoa, with these five cities alone responsible for 51% of thefts in the country.



National statistics are harder to come by for Germany, due to the regional form of Federal States governance, but from our initial research it seems, like France, there was a reduction in motorcycle thefts overall in 2016. We couldn’t find more recent statistics, but bear in mind the French saw a significant increase in 2017.

Berlin leads the way for the number of motorcycle thefts, but in Munich you have a greater chance of getting your bike back as 1-in-3 motorcycles stolen there are recovered by the police. NPCC members reading this should take note.


Motorcycle theft is rising in Spain. In the first three months of 2017, there was an increase of 8.3% to 10,962 over the previous year according to the data provided by the Ministry of the Interior and the Detector Group.

Annually, a motorcycle is stolen every eight minutes in Spain, a devastating figure considering the population is some 15% lower than Italy, which has a not dissimilar rate of theft.

Like the UK, the Yamaha TMAX is a popular target for thieves in Spain, accounting for 16% of all thefts. Unlike the UK, the Kawasaki Z900 and the BMW F800GT are also popular targets for thieves, accounting for 8% of thefts each.


Does the UK really have a problem with motorcycle theft?

Motorcycle theft is clearly a big problem in many countries (except, it seems, The Netherlands).

In the UK however, the problem may not be as significant as insurance companies, for one, might have you believe.

Yes, the figures are higher than the estimate of around 30,000 thefts expected this year. But they are not going to be at the same levels as French and Italian motorcyclists have to suffer.

Yes, there is a big problem in London, which accounts for roughly half of those thefts yet is home to only 15% of the population, meaning you are statistically more vulnerable to theft if you live inside the M25.

But none of this means that UK motorcyclists should be complacent. In a perfect world, there would be no theft at all. As that’s never going to happen, you should use all of the security you can get your hands on to avoid returning to an empty spot where your bike used to be.




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B&B Staff

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