Reported bike thefts in capital region spike 20% in year

The number of reported bike thefts in the capital region has jumped 20 per cent in the past year, driven largely by a spike in Victoria.

The number of reported bicycle thefts in Victoria climbed to 433 in 2012, up from 325 a year earlier, returning to levels not seen since 2009.

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Though police can’t explain the increase, the numbers demonstrate the need for improved security measures, say bike-shop owners and cycling enthusiasts.

Victoria police spokesman Const. Mike Russell said there is no known reason for the increase, but new software making it easier to report thefts online could be playing a role: The department received 70 online reports of bikes stolen in Victoria and Esquimalt in 2012.

“An increase in thefts may be from an increase in reporting, but we can’t say for sure,” Russell said.

Eight of the 13 Capital Regional District municipalities recorded more stolen-bike reports in 2012 than in 2011.

Nearly 800 bikes were reported stolen in the region last year, up from about 650 in 2011, but down from nearly 1,000 in 2008.

The numbers come as no surprise to Jeremy Kumbruch, co-owner of Bicycleitis on Bay Street near Shelbourne.

“We see anywhere from three to five people per week coming in during the summer reporting bikes stolen,” he said.

The majority of stolen bikes are disassembled and sold for parts, said Gary Schenk, head of the Regional Crime Unit. Stealing bikes is just one way for criminals to make money.

“Most bikes are stolen by the same offenders who break into cars, houses, or businesses,” he said.

Sheena Brereton thought her specialized dirt-jumper would be safe overnight at the University of Victoria, a Saanich hot spot for bike thefts.

She was wrong. Even with a heavy-duty Kryptonite lock, the type often recommended by experts, the thief or thieves likely had hours under darkness to hack away at it.

The lock was completely destroyed, Brereton said.

“I don’t even know how they did it.”

The majority of bike thefts reported for Victoria are in the downtown, where a large number of cyclists work, live and shop.

Parking garages are hot spots for thieves, say police, even when bikes are locked up.

“If people can get in there, they have free rein to do what they want,” Russell said.

Incorporating bike parking into sidewalks would make bicycles more visible and secure, said Edward Pullman, president of the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition, an advocacy group.

Municipalities throughout the region are investing in cycling paths, so incorporating bike parking should be top of mind, he said.

But secure parking is just one part of the equation. Without a lock — or the right lock — bikes are easy items to steal because they provide thieves with a getaway vehicle, said Marty Clermont, manager at Russ Hay’s The Bicycle Shop in Victoria.

Far too often, Clermont hears from victims who stop “for a minute” to get a coffee and end up losing their bikes to thieves.

“Nobody would leave the keys in the ignition with the motor running in their car when they go in to a coffee shop,” he said.

“Why would you not lock up your bike?”

dspalding@timescolonist.com

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