Use your locks, London, because bike thefts have increased

Bicycle thefts are up by nearly 10 per cent in London compared to this time last year and cyclists in the city are turning to social-media channels to help recover their trusty, two-wheeled steeds.

Double, triple check those bike locks, London.

Bicycle thefts are up by nearly 10 per cent in London compared to this time last year and cyclists in the city are turning to social-media channels to help recover their trusty, two-wheeled steeds.

According to London Const. Sandasha Bough, there have been about 387 bike thefts reported to police since January this year. Last year, that number was 357.

Ben Cowie, the owner of London Bicycle Cafe, wasn’t surprised by those numbers and noted that he hears his customers often talk about bicycle thefts.

“There’s two groups of people,” Cowie said. “People who are reluctant to buy a bike because they’re afraid of it being stolen . . . or people who have had their bikes stolen, which is a really frustrating and personal thing.”

A Facebook group created earlier this year has given Forest City residents an outlet to post photos and share information about lost or stolen bicycles in an effort to return them back to their owners.

“It’s just trying to increase your odds,” Cowie explained.

Several posts have populated the Facebook group with details of stolen bikes, as well as images and videos of some of the bike thieves taken from security cameras. But the point of the page is not to catch the thieves, it’s just to get bikes back to owners, according to group administrator Shelley Carr.

“They’re being stolen from everywhere . . . from inside people’s garages and off the street” Carr said. “I think a very serious bike-theft ring is operating out of London.”

Carr noted that stolen bikes usually show up online on sites like Kijiji or at pawn shops. But she said many of the high-end bikes that are being taken are nowhere to be found after they are stolen. Carr thinks they’re being taken out of the city, or are being stolen for specific people rather than being sold in public.

“Some (bikes) are pretty specific brands and are usually really hard to find,” Carr said. “Those aren’t coming up anywhere online.”

Cowie said when those bikes go missing it “really stings” because they are often custom-fitted to the owner. He noted that professional bike thieves will scout out high-end bikes, observe the owner’s patterns and routines and then quickly steal them when they get the chance.

“I tell everybody you’re protecting against amateur thieves . . . if a pro wants your bike, they’re going to take it,” Cowie said. “That’s why you get your bike insured.”

Cowie advises his customers to buy quality locks from their local bike store rather than a cheap dollar-store lock. He also tells them to lock their bikes in visible areas with a decent amount of foot traffic to discourage theft.

Finally, he advises customers to insure their bikes — especially if they are expenseive — comparing insuring a bike to insuring a car.

Cowie also said it’s useful to take precautions before the bike is stolen, like taking a clear photo of it, writing down its serial number and registering it with the Bike Registry Service — a global database that sends out alerts to residents in a neighbourhood that a registered bike is stolen from.

“If you have your bike stolen, you want everybody to know,” Cowie said. “The people who see the street level better than anybody else are people on bikes, so it gives you a better chance at getting your bike back.”

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