The number of stolen bicycles for sale on Brick Lane has fallen after a police clampdown, but some fear the problem has simply moved to neighbouring Hackney.
Tower Hamlets police launched a TfL-funded operation to tackle bicycle theft and the subsequent sale of stolen bikes after Brick Lane Market became notorious for the illegal trade.
Operation Helium, launched in September, involves an increase in police presence and covert operations to catch bike thieves and those selling stolen bikes.
There have been 14 bicycle theft-related arrests since the operation began, with 10 bicycles returned to their rightful owners.
Aiden Earl, who works in a bike shop on Brick Lane, said: ‘[Illegal bicycle traders] have been pushed away from Brick Lane and maybe it is the influence of the police that has caused that.”
But Mr Earl warned: “Perhaps that is not such a good thing as they have moved to Hackney.”
Stolen bikes are now being sold at Broadway Market on a Saturday and on Columbia Road on a Sunday.
A 28-year-old woman who didn’t wish to be named said: “I had been warned not to buy my bike on Brick Lane as it’s notorious for stolen bikes but hadn’t heard any stories about thieves selling on Broadway Market so I bought my bike there in good faith.
“Looking back, I can see I was being pretty naive but the guy I bought it from seemed very genuine,” she said. “It never occurred to my that it might be stolen as he seemed like a guy who really knew his stuff, even recommending the best lock to deter thieves.”
Today a Tower Hamlets police spokeswoman warned people to be vigilant when buying a bicycle at a street market.
“If you buy a stolen bike, not only could you have the bike seized from you – meaning you lose the money you paid for the bike, but you could be prosecuted by the police for handling stolen goods,” she said.
Cyclists are advised to keep a record of their bicycle model, make and distinguishing features, and to always report bicycle theft to the police. Over 23,000 bicycles were stolen in London over the past year.
Additional reporting: Catalina May