Alleged sleazeball Igor Kenk’s long-awaited bike theft bust by Toronto police in July captured the attention of media locally and beyond. With legal proceedings underway, a recorded 573 cyclists were reunited with their beloved bikes at public viewings over the summer. But according to police spokesperson Constable Wendy Drummond, 2,292 of the 2,865 seized bikes remain unclaimed and currently sit in an undisclosed location collecting dust.
At the last Toronto Cycling Advisory Committee meeting on November 3, proposals for what to do with the bikes were brought forward by reps from Bike Pirates and U of T’s Bike Chain, among others. The suggestions included using the bikes as a teaching tool for bicycle mechanics, partnering with the city’s Environmental Days, and distributing the bikes to Toronto’s low-income communities. Herb Van Den Dool of the Community Bicycle Network was there, and he says the hope was to hold an auction that would allow one or more community groups to purchase the bikes cheaply. “The police can’t give the bikes away,” he says.
Blogger Chad Nuttall cared enough to record a PSA and start a petition over the summer, and his goal now is to keep the story in the public’s awareness. “The story seems to have lost momentum, but that’s the nature of the Toronto media,” he says. “There’s a hot-button issue, and a few weeks later they move on to something else.” Nuttall would like to see the bikes returned to the hands of downtown dwellers who were victimized by Kenk’s crimes, particularly those who can’t afford Metropasses and bus tokens. “They could use the bikes to get to work and school,” he says.
But Drummond dropped this bomb: “Those bikes are no longer the property of Toronto Police Services….They were handed over to the courts, and it’s up to the presiding judge to determine where the bikes would go. We have no authority over them.” Izzy Bernardo of 14 Division’s Major Crime department says the court’s proceeds of crime section became involved at the end of October, and since then the police continue to house the bikes but have no jurisdiction over them.
Many of the bikes are missing rims and tires, Bernardo notes. “You wouldn’t want to donate a bike with no wheels to a kid, and then they have to spend $70 to get it fixed.” But he agrees that giving the bikes to a group that could repair them, such as Bike Pirates, is “a good idea.” Bernardo also mentions that Kenk was pushing to donate the bikes to a charity of his choice, but so far has been unsuccessful. “Why should he get to pick the charity?”
Tammy Thorne, editor-in-chief of Dandyhorse, admits that the situation is frustrating and feels that the Igor saga speaks to the larger issue of what the police should do with stolen bikes. “Often an officer assigned to the bike committee will just say nothing can be done, and I’m like, ‘Thanks for looking into it, buddy.'” Thorne is having a legal brief drawn up so laymen can cut through the police’s pat answers.
Aided by media-friendly types like Nuttall and advocates like Thorne, it seems the best hope is to use the power of public opinion to sway the court’s decision. With Kenk’s next scheduled court date over a month away and no way to tell how long the trial will last, it’s disheartening to think of all that incredibly useful evidence lying around when there are plenty of citizens who could really use the holiday gift of a hot bike.
Photo by designwallah from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.