You’ve probably heard the stories. It must have happened to your friends or roommate or sister or boyfriend or co-worker. Bike. Theft. These two ugly words have recently become this Torontoist contributor’s least favourite term. Bike theft has been plaguing the city for years, but most recently it seems that more and more people have become bike-timized.
Contrary to popular belief, Toronto is not the number one city for bike theft. In fact, according to a City of Toronto official, Sean Wheldrake, Bicycle Promotions Coordinator, there has been a decrease in reported bike thefts (about 7,000 each year) since the 1990s. The vast majority of bike thefts take place in people’s houses (porches, garages, etc.) with about 30 per cent taking place on the street. Part of the problem is that many bike thefts go unreported making it difficult for the police to understand the depth of the problem. If more people were to report their stolen bikes, or bike parts (seats, wheels, etc.), then the police may take the issue more seriously. Report your stolen bike to the Toronto Police by calling them at (416) 808-2222.
Here are some tips to prevent bike theft:
• Register your bike. It’s simple, download this registration form and bring it to your local police station or mail it to the address on the form. For more information, visit the police website here.
• Record the make, model and serial number of your bike and keep it in a safe place.
• Always lock your bicycle when not in use or keep it in your house or office building.
• Lock the frame and both wheels to an immovable object that cannot easily be broken or cut, using a combination of a high-quality u-lock (check out the Kryptonite New York/Evolution u-lock) and a cable lock can further deter theft.
• If your bike is stolen, report the loss to the police immediately.
After locking up my forest green ladies mountain bike for a few short hours at my work’s bike rack on Edward Street at University Avenue (just north of Dundas), on an eerily quiet Sunday afternoon, I came back to an easily cut through cable lock, sans bicycle. It is something that I have been expecting since bringing my bike downtown (from the safe North York suburbs) several years ago. No matter where I parked it, I always felt a sigh of relief when I would see she was still there. But this time was different, this time I was filled with questions like “why didn’t I register my bike with the police?” or “why didn’t I splurge on that incredibly expensive u-lock?” Perhaps it’s because I am lazy or cheap, I spent $40 on my lock, but what does it matter – bike thieves can break through all types of locks, most under two minutes.
After some pouting and cursing I set to the streets in (naïve) search for my bike. After speaking with a source in Kensington market I learned that stolen bikes are typically “negotiated” within 24 to 48 hours of the theft, usually in the same area where the bike was stolen. Most of the bikes are disassembled and the parts are sold for a couple of bucks – generally enough to get the culprit drug money. Other bikes are bought by usually unsuspecting customers. If you’re fast enough, you may actually spot your bike at a local used bike shop – this, unfortunately perpetuates the problem of stolen bikes.
If you do choose to buy a used bike make sure to ask lots of questions. Here are some tips for buying a used bike:
• Make sure the seller knows a lot about the bike so ask lots of questions like when was it purchased, what model is it, what year, etc.
• Never buy bikes from random street sellers, chances are it’s a “hot” bike
• Check the serial number on the frame
• Call your local police precinct to see if they have information on how to check for a stolen bike
• Feeling daring, then ask the seller if the bike is stolen – his/her reaction will give you a good indication of whether or not the bike is stolen
• Does the seller look shady? Does he have any gold teeth, a hook for an arm, a gun shot wound, is he wearing a mask, or an orange jumpsuit with numbers on it?
Image from the Bike Friendly Business Awards of Toronto