Braking the Vicious Cycle of Bike Theft

I consider myself lucky. The last time I had a bike stolen, I was in high school, many years ago. However, I know many folks who have more recent experiences with bike theft, including this rather amazing story.

One morning I learned that not one, but two neighbours, had their bike stolen from their garage overnight. Both bikes had been in their respective garages, but not locked up. Fortunately, both neighbours got their bikes back and the culprit was found.

What makes the story unique is that the first neighbour’s bike was actually discovered in the second neighbour’s garage, where the thief apparently dumped the first bike, in favour of the second one!

I was glad to hear that both bikes were safely returned, but unfortunately that’s not often the case with stolen bikes.

Just how prevalent is bike theft in our Region? I reached out to Ashley Dietrich, a public information officer with the Waterloo Regional Police Service to find out.

She noted that in 2018, there were approximately 1,100 reports of bike theft – an average of just over three per day! Although the final numbers are obviously not in yet, the Region has seen a decrease in bike thefts, with just over 400 reported at the end of August. She has noticed more people taking the time to secure their bikes, which may be one factor in the reduced number.

“The reality is, these are crimes of opportunity. Oftentimes people see a garage door open, or a bike laying on the lawn or a front porch and they can easily walk up and steal it,” Dietrich said.

There are some steps bike owners can take to reduce the risk of having their bike stolen.

“Always take your bike into a place of safety; that’s going to be the best place to secure your bike,” Dietrich continued.

She also noted a trend this summer where bikes were actually being taken off of vehicular bike racks.

“Always lock your bike to a solid object and make sure your lock can’t be cut. Lock it in a well-lit area with high foot traffic.”

Dietrich noted that it’s wonderful when they can return a bike to its owner.

“We’ve had a number of successful stories recently where people have had their bike returned to them,” she said.

An important step in getting a stolen bike returned is being able to prove the bike is actually yours.

Dietrich encourages people to do the “Snap N’ Save” program. This is when you take a photo of your bike noting the serial number. You can provide that to police if you’re having to report a bike theft. If the owner doesn’t have any proof that the bike belongs to them, Dietrich said it’s very challenging for police to return those bikes.

I did wonder if it’s really worth the trouble of reporting a stolen bike. Dietrich insists that it is.

“We do recommend you call the local number which is 519-570-9777 (or online at Making out a police report is helpful. It allows us to note statistics and trends and if those aren’t reported then we can’t track that,” she said.

“This is a theft and it gets investigated like any other theft. Bikes are just a little more challenging because oftentimes people don’t have the proper documentation to return that bike to the rightful owners.”

Although cyclists can take steps to secure their bikes, ensuring plenty of safe and secure places to store bikes throughout our Region is an important way to encourage more people to cycle.