THE city’s police chief said she is “absolutely exasperated” by the soaring number of bikes thefts but said officers will do everything possible to catch the culprits.

Chief Superintendent Lisa Bell said she is “furious” so many bikes are being stolen in Brighton and Hove and she was determined to put a stop to it.

Her comments come as a businessman claimed there was an “epidemic” after having four bikes stolen in the last year.

The city commander said: “Bike thefts have gone up. I am absolutely exasperated this is happening in a city that wants to promote the green agenda by using bikes. How frustrating that at 9am you chain up your bike and then when you come back at 5pm it is gone. Some people spend a fortune on their bike, it is their mode of transport. I absolutely share their frustration.”

Mrs Bell said officers became concerned when they noticed the “significant rise” in thefts and are taking steps to crack down on the culprits - which they believe could be operating in groups or as an organised gang because of the frequency and quantity of incidents.

She said there was a “degree of organisation” among the thieves whose struck most in the summer when more cyclists were out more and the surge was probably because there are a market for the commodity.

Yesterday The Argus reported the plight of Stephen Freedman whose Giant £2,000 mountain bike was stolen in broad daylight from the bike rack outside King Alfred Leisure Centre in Kingsway, Hove, on September 17. It is the fourth bike that has been stolen from him in a year.

To help victims like Mr Freedman, Mrs Bell’s team has launched Operation Ensnare, under which dedicated investigators will carry out tactical work to catch the thieves and help more owners get their bikes marked. Even during the interview with The Argus Mrs Bell was on high alert, stopping momentarily to watch someone loitering by a bike parked outside the John Street police station from a window.

She said: “We will be exploiting CCTV and understanding the areas where this is prevalent. We will also be giving crime prevention advice because some people are responsible but many people might not use extra security measures.

“We are absolutely taking this seriously.

“We recognise the importance - it may not seem like a heavy duty crime but when it is your mode of transport having your bike stolen can cause huge problems. Some cost thousands of pounds and if it is stolen there is the added cost of alternative transport - the effect cannot be underestimated.”