Posted on August 01, 2017
It is a positive statistics that the frequency of crime is declining all over the country. Unfortunately, there is always an exception to the rule, and it seems that this exception is found in bike theft. Over the past five years, this has been increasingly steadily, in fact.
FBI reports tell us that some 183,028 bikes were reported stolen in 2009. By 2012, this number increased to 194,549. The next year, it dipped ever so slightly to exactly 190,000. What is perhaps even more worrying is that the value of the average stolen bike is also going up. In 2009, the value was $351, and this rose to $420 in 2013. This could mean that thieves are becoming more selective of the bikes that they steal nowadays.
Nowhere does the rise in bike theft seem to be as significant as in Los Angeles. It has soared by almost 60% there. Prime locations for theft are coffee shops, the Central Library and restaurants. It has also been found that the majority of bike thefts happen on Thursdays between 12 noon and 6pm. In many cases, bikes end up in the Skid Row areas, where they are turned into 'community bikes', for anyone to use. It is believed that this is a result of Proposition 47, which California voters passed last year. It was designed to reduce prison overcrowding by reducing six different felony crimes to misdemeanors. Some people now say that this has made criminals bolder and less worried about the consequences of their actions.
Downtown Los Angeles is not the only affected area. There have been a number of high-profile thefts where individual athletes and their teams have been the victims of bike theft. It seems that certain thieves now look specifically for professional racers. These criminals no longer use old fashioned snatch-and-grab techniques, but actually work across large geographical areas using the internet to scout locations.
All of these means that all cyclists have to take responsibility for the safety of their bikes. A good bike lock is just the start. It is also advisable to vary routes regularly, so that you do not become an easy target. Two specific aspects of bike protection revolve around documentation and properly locking the bike, both of which are essential.
You must fully document your bike. There are too many people who do not know what their bike's serial number is, or who have no proof that they own the bike. If it is then stolen, there is very little that can be done. Bike owners are urged to take a note of important details that law enforcement can use in order to return the bike. Each bike should have its own file that includes the serial number, receipt of purchase (even for second hand bikes), any repair receipts you may have and photographs. Make sure you have photographs of any of the distinctive features the bike has. If, at any point, you change what the bike looks like, this should also be documented with supplemental photographs. The files should be stored digitally if possible, but do also keep paper copies if you can. The bike should also be registered with a national organization if possible. Furthermore, if you have home insurance, you should include the bike on your policy and make sure that you cover it for its full replacement value.
All of the above information are important if your bike gets stolen. However, you should also take active steps to avoid getting it stolen in the first place. The documentation is vital because it will increase the chances of having your bike returned if it is recovered. However, you must also learn how to properly lock your bike every time your bike isn't in your immediate possession. These include when you store it in your own property. The majority of bicycles are stolen because owners use poor locks, or don't lock them at all. People still believe that they can leave their bike for a few short moments while they run into a shop or ask their neighbors a question. In reality, thieves are looking out specifically for those types of moments and they will strike as soon as possible. If you are not in direct contact with your bike, it should be locked, regardless of where it is located. Most importantly, you need to have a good lock, and you need to use it properly. This means locking the back wheel of your bike, and the frame if you can, to a solid structure.
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