So is your bicycle among the hundreds recovered by police?

THIS picture reveals the true extent of Edinburgh's soaring bike theft problem as hundreds are stockpiled in a police warehouse.

The stolen bikes will lie in the Fettes storage unit for four months before being auctioned off if their owners don't come forward to claim them.

The new images come as police today revealed that three teenagers have been arrested for their part in a crime spree which saw more than 100 bicycles stolen over three years.

The youngsters, aged 15 and 16, are accused of stealing 106 bikes from communal stairwells.

Using hacksaws and bolt-cutters, thieves have been targeting expensive mountain bikes which can be worth thousands of pounds before selling them to friends and second-hand shops for as little as 20.

Unclaimed bikes are used to boost police coffers by selling them off at auction, but many will sit for longer if they have been used in a crime.

The latest police figures show that the number of bike thefts in Edinburgh is on target to become the highest in three years, with more than 100 bikes being stolen every month.

A total of 1355 bikes were stolen in the Capital in 2004, with that number growing to 1363 the following year and the 2006 total in line to reach 1424 by December.

Organised gangs of criminals are being blamed for the increase in thefts from streets, common stairways and sheds, with expensive designer models their main targets.

And drug addicts are also believed to be contributing to the rise in stolen bikes reported to police as they try to fund their habits by selling them on for a fraction of their value.

Sergeant Gary Cunningham, part of the plain clothes team who made the recent arrests of the three teenage thieves, said that the gang had preyed on easy targets when stealing bikes in the area.

He said: "We usually deal with car crime and break-ins, but we've also become increasingly concerned about thefts of push bikes.

"In Meadowbank, there has definitely been a big problem with bike crime in recent years.

"These thieves were definitely opportunistic, but at the same time they focused on communal stairwells where they knew there would be a lot of bikes lying around. Most of them were either unlocked or fixed with flimsy chains that were very easy to break with a hacksaw or bolt cutters."

One of the teenagers was arrested in connection with a car break-in earlier this month. Police then connected him to a large number of bike thefts which had taken place in the area.

The teenagers had either sold the bikes on to school friends or resprayed them before selling them on to second-hand shops, making them difficult for police to trace.

Three teenagers have now been charged for the thefts and a report is currently being compiled and will be sent to the procurator fiscal.

The force is now urging all bike owners in Edinburgh to make sure they lock their cycles securely so that they are not an easy target for thieves.

A spokesman for Cycling Scotland, an Executive-funded organisation that promotes cycling in Scotland, agreed that cyclists should take every precaution to protect their bikes.

He added: "Bike crime is a big issue, so we would encourage cyclists to be vigilant and take steps to protect their bikes.

"They should purchase a high-quality D-lock to secure their bike and make sure that they park it in a safe, secure spot, rather than a public place where it would be an easy target for thieves."

If anyone has had a bike stolen and thinks it could have been reclaimed or handed in to the police, they should phone the Lothian and Borders Police headquarters at Fettes on 0131-311 3131.

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