VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s an ongoing problem in Vancouver that’s only getting worse — the theft of bicycles. There has been a significant uptick in recent years and police are taking some unique steps to help catch the crooks responsible.
Over five days last week, the VPD arrested as many people through their Bait Bike Program, where they lock up a bicycle somewhere, then watch and wait for someone to take it and arrest them. This happens all the time, especially in high traffic areas like around the Public Library, Aquatic Centre and any malls.
“At the end of October we were looking at about 2,800 reported thefts of bicycles in the city and we know that number is under reported, and that’s up from about 2,400 thefts we had all of last year so it’s a fairly dramatic increase. We do think part of it is due to efforts in trying to get people to report the theft, that haven’t reported it in the past. We think the reporting ratio is up but we also think there are chronic offenders out there who are habitual bike thieves that make a living at this,” explains Constable Brian Montague.
He adds what’s frustrating is the crime is preventable and the stats could be cut in half if bike owners took some simple steps. “Record your serial number, because we do recover a large number of stolen bicycles and we simply can’t return them to their owners because we don’t know who they belong to and invest in a good quality lock and use it properly.”
“We get lots of thefts where people don’t lock their bikes or they lock them inappropriately. They’ll lock them to a ‘No stopping’ sign which is easily removed from the ground and then the person just rides off with the bike with the lock attached.”
Because many of the bicycles recovered by the VPD don’t have that registered serial number — they go to an annual auction.
“We recover them in a number of scenarios. Sometimes it’s during checks our officers do on the street of individuals riding their bicycles. It’s during arrests made of people that are in possession of bicycles for other crimes and we run serial numbers or determine through a quick conversation that this clearly isn’t a bicycle that belongs to the individual that has it.”
“In some cases, we go into homes on search warrants that are related to property crime offences and find large stashes of bicycles. We’ve gone into homes where we have found 30, 40, 50 bicycles — clearly all stolen and unfortunately for many of them, we just don’t know who they belong to.”
Montague says as much as the onus is on bike owners, he’s also pleading with the public to do their part.
“I watched a social experiment not that long ago — someone locked up a bike to a rack in Downtown Vancouver and a few hours later came back with a very large pair of bolt-cutters. They worked at the lock for quite some time and watched as people stared, wondered what was going on — clearly this person was stealing a bicycle and not one person took out their phone and called police. I think it’s up to everyone to make sure suspicious behaviour gets reported — if you see something, say something and say it to 911 first.”
“I can think of a real incident where we had an electrical bicycle stolen on Columbia Street. We had video of this happening, after the fact of course. The person went at the lock with an axe. So, here’s a person swinging an axe and we didn’t receive one call. The police can’t be everywhere at all times. We rely heavily on the public to properly secure their property, to be able to identify it if it is stolen and to call us if something is out of the ordinary,” says Montague.
Admittedly, Vancouver Police have had a real issue tackling a recent rise in property crime. “Sometimes it can be minor and in some cases it can be more extensive. This includes shoplifting, bicycle theft and then things like if you leave your purse or wallet on the table at a coffee shop and someone walks by and snatches it and runs away with it. These are crimes we need the public’s help in reducing.”