CYCLISTS have been warned to take extra precautions to secure their bikes amid a sharp rise in thefts in Oxford.

Reports of bicycles being stolen in the city have rocketed 70 per cent in a year, new figures show.

A total of 2,339 reports of bike theft were made to Thames Valley Police from June 2016 to June 2017, compared to 1,375 incidents for the previous 12 months, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Oxford neighbourhood police inspector, Chris Simpson, said: "While it’s encouraging to see continuing declines in serious offences such as arson and criminal damage, general theft offences, and particularly sexual and drug-related offences, bicycle theft remains a problem in the city.

"We would strongly encourage all bike users to invest in effective bike security products, to use them every time they leave their bikes, and to take advantage of the many events attended by the neighbourhood teams, at which free bike marking and other bike crime prevention advice is on offer."

Reports of robbery increased by 21 per cent, from 89 incidents in 2015/16 to 108 in 2016/17, but reports are down 35 per cent compared to five years ago.

Reports of sex offences in the city fell by two per cent compared to 2016/17,

Despite the leap in bike thefts in the past year there has been a drop in the number of bicycle thefts recorded over the past five years.

In 2011/2012, 2,559 reports were made in Oxford.

Simon Hunt, chairman of Oxford cycling group Cyclox, said the recent rise in bicycle reports was 'worrying' and said thefts were either committed by 'opportunist' thieves acting alone or by organised groups.

He added: "An average of six cycles were reported stolen every day – 15 per cent of all reported crimes – which is six too many.

"It's a worrying increase, but the total cycle thefts still remain lower than in 2012.

"Opportunists see bike theft as a low-risk, high-reward crime.

"Often bikes are unlocked, and there's nothing more easily whisked away without being noticed than a bike.

"Weak locks are easily overcome. It's no good simply immobilising the wheel without locking it to an immovable object like a bike stand."

Tom Hayes, Oxford City Council's board member for community safety said the stark rise in bike thefts did not surprise him 'at all'.

He added: "It so not shock me because of the stuff I have heard over the past six months.

"I have had my bike stolen.

"These guys are cutting through the locks. They are not just your average guy or girl, it's something bigger than that.

"The key thing is it's hard to steal a bike if that bike is fully secured and protected.

"Do what the guy in the bike shop says, get the strongest possible lock."