May 13, 2016 - 2:30 PM
"PEOPLE OF LIMITED ECONOMIC MEANS STILL NEED TO GET AROUND"
KELOWNA – Bike theft is a growth industry in Kelowna, according to the RCMP.
With property crime rising across the board, bike thefts are quickly pedaling towards becoming one of the easiest and safest ways to make an illegal buck.
By this time last year, Kelowna RCMP received 106 reports of stolen bicycles and that number more than doubled to 238 by the end of June.
This year it’s even worse with 126 bikes already stolen. If last year’s trend continues, roughly four bikes will be stolen in Kelowna every day until the end of next month.
RCMP Insp. Gordon Stewart says the problem is only getting worse.
“It’s one of our growth areas,” he says. “There’s a general increase in property crime across the board. Bikes are easy to trade so they are on the leading edge of that.”
Most bikes, he says, are stolen simply because people need to get around.
“The main reason bikes get stolen is people need transportation and they’re available," Stewart says. "The weather has been warm earlier this year and last, and there are more bikes out there. Secondary to that is people steal them for profit.”
That explains why all kinds of bikes are stolen, he says, from pink children’s bikes to high end racers.
“They sell them or trade the bikes for drugs, that’s not uncommon.”
Two people were arrested last year for allegedly running a bicycle chop shop in Kelowna. RCMP found more than 40 bicycles ranging in value from $500 to $5,000.
Supt. Nick Romanchuk said the bikes were being used as currency in the downtown drug trade.
It’s not unusual for police to recover stolen bikes. Stewart says thieves use them for a while then dump them or give them away. That’s why RCMP often have trouble making arrests.
“It’s hard to get them in court because (the bikes) go through many different sets of hands on the way down the line,” he says. “Knowing a bike is stolen and proving a bike is stolen is a huge gap.”
That’s why police are constantly reminding residents to not only lock their bikes with a quality bike lock, but always record serial numbers and take pictures.
“Without that it’s next to impossible to trace the owner,” Stewart says.
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