By Luke Slavens
Lewisville Police Department
Ahhhhhh, the never ending bicycle thefts! They become rampant this time of year with Spring just around the corner. In the United States an average of 250,000 bicycles are annually reported stolen, not including the ones that go unreported. Now that’s a lot of bicycles!
Whether it’s someone looking to score a joy ride across town, a schmuck looking to make some cash to support his habit, or just a punk trading up to a nicer ride. These are the primary reasons bicycles are stolen, accompanied by the “opportunity” and a false sense of security in our little wonderlands. Thieves are out there; they are lurking and always looking for that opportunity. One only needs to ride out with their local law enforcement to have an eye opening experience of what really goes on, jaw dropping to say the least.
Bicycle thefts just as any thefts are a “crime of opportunity”, daytime or nighttime makes no difference. With a few tips you can lessen your chances for becoming a victim and having to replace your better half!
First and foremost…. out of sight, out of mind! This is your best bet for keeping your trusty steed safe and out of harms way. Keep it out of public view, this takes the temptations out of the equation. Most of us keep our high end rides indoors, as if they’re a member of the family that your spouse can’t grasp. Others will end up hanging in the garage relegated to 2nd tier or secondary goods status. An unattended open garage door is a thiefs invitation, the opportunity you have given that they have been waiting for! A bicycle hanging in a garage indicates it’s something of value, something that must be kept out of reach of others, thus making its affectionate appeal desirable. It’s good practice to keep the garage door closed unless you’re in an eyes view of your property. Parents should be sure to have Little Johnny put his bike away when he is done riding. I can’t count how many times while at work I see kids bicycles just left out in the yard overnight. There like $100 bills just laying in the yard waiting to be picked up, not quite but you get the picture. These are the ones that are usually taken, ridden across town and then dumped.
Apartment residents are also encouraged to store their bicycles out of view. Storing your bike at the lower stairwell is practically begging for it to be stolen. It sits out their day/night for so many to see until someone comes along and decides they want a new bicycle,……yours! You may think a second floor patio would be off limits, don’t fool yourself these too are stolen just not as often as their ground floor counterparts. Be sure to use your outdoor patio storage closets if you have them or bring them in for good measure.
If you’re staying at a hotel or overnight somewhere, bring your bike indoors. Leaving it on the car rack is like taking a 50/50 chance it will be there in the morning and I don’t like those odds. If you’re stopping to eat at a restaurant ensure the bikes are locked together and more importantly eat at a window where you can see your vehicle.
If you simply must lock your bicycle outdoors, or you’re out running an errand be sure to get the best lock available. The smaller wire or chain locks may slow one down or at best persuade them to move to an easier unlocked target. Rest assured though, your die hard thieves carry tools and cutters to bypass your locks. Opt for a steel U-Lock when you need the best security, although nothing is safe proof with enough time and effort.
Below are some common tips:
- Register your bike with the manufacturer
- Register your bike with your city (some cities have free bicycle registrations)
- Always lock your bicycle when unattended in a public place
- Use a U lock and a cable lock through the frame and wheels (see diagram above). This tried-and-true method makes stealing a bike nearly impossible when done correctly. Chain and cable locks can be defeated easily by a thief.
- Lock your bicycle to a fixed, immovable object such as a bicycle rack
- Always lock your bicycle in a visible and well-lighted area
Document now, don’t wait till it’s too late!
This documentation will go a long way should you ever need it and will make filing a police report or insurance claim flow that much more smoothly.
- Record the Make/Model/Serial # – this is the bare minimum you should have. Having this information allows police to enter your property (bicycle) in a nationwide database as a stolen item. If the serial number is ever checked by the police, pawn shop, etc it will alert that it is stolen property so that it can be seized and returned to its owner.
- Be descriptive as possible about the bicycle noting the following: Colors, Frame Material, Size, Components, Wheels, and any accessories you have added.
- Note any damage or other distinguishing features that would identify the bicycle as “yours”.
- Be sure to retain purchase receipts for proof of purchase and ownership, much like a bill of sale.
- Lastly, take a few pictures of the bicycle being sure to also capture pictures of the serial number, make, and model.
Store all documentation you have taken along with pictures in a safe secure place. Emailing yourself with the information/attachments is a great way to store electronically so that you will have it forever.
My bicycle got stolen, now what?
- Notify the police and make a report. Be sure to have a serial number/make/model/color available and a picture would be most beneficial.
- Watch craigslist and other similar selling places. (If you find your bike, call the police. Don’t try to handle it yourself!)
- Check local pawn shops.
- Tell your friends, post flyers, post on forums, social sites and notify local bike shops.
- Contact your insurance to check replacement or reimbursement options.
Do stolen bicycles ever really get found?
You bet they do, with a serial number and a police report a good number of stolen bicycles get returned to their owners. However, there are thousands of bicycles found dumped and turned into police that go unclaimed. Without that serial number recorded we have no way of knowing who to return the bike back too.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article, if nothing else maybe it will keep your bicycle from becoming the next “opportunity”. Stay safe, keep pedaling and we’ll see you on the road!