To prevent bicycle thefts, buy better locks – and use them properly - InfoNews

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To prevent bicycle thefts, buy better locks – and use them properly

Cyclepath owner Garry Norkum recommends a U-lock and chain lock to protect your bicycle from thieves.
June 06, 2019 - 7:00 AM

KELOWNA - Bicycle thefts are rampant in the Central Okanagan and getting worse.

“It seems to have ramped up in the last two or three years,” Cyclepath Cycle and Snow owner Garry Norkum told “You cannot leave your bike anywhere unattended. Then there are crimes of opportunity. Leave your garage door open for one night and bang, bikes are gone. You park your car over in the mall, bike’s gone.”

He cited one case where someone broke into a number of storage lockers in a condo complex and stole six or seven bikes. One owner lost two bikes worth $11,000.

Another time, a friend was at Parkinson Recreation Centre waiting to pick someone up and a would-be thief tried to steal a bike off the car’s bike rack while the driver was sitting inside.

Bike thefts were up 60.6 per cent in the city for the first three months of this year to 114 thefts, RCMP Supt. Brent Mundle reported to Kelowna city council in April. And that was during the winter.

More recent statistics for West Kelowna, Kelowna and Lake Country list 104 bikes stolen in the last six weeks, or around 17 bikes a week.

And those are just that ones that are reported to the RCMP with the necessary information, such as make, model, colour and serial number, so they can be entered into the data base.

How to stop all this theft?

“We’re telling customers to buy more expensive locks,” Norkum said. “Do not use cable locks. They can cut cable locks in 10 seconds and it looks like they’re just unlocking their bike.”

He recommends a combination of U-locks and chain locks.

The U-locks are U-shaped hardened steel that can only be cut through with a grinder – and that can take 10 minutes in a shop. He’s only known of two bikes stolen using those locks in 25 years.

But, U-locks only secure the bike to a bike rack, leaving wheels and seats at risk. That’s where a chain lock is needed. But they are heavy.

The U-locks come with varying security ratings and the brand he sells range in price from $50 to $189.

It takes more than having a good lock though. People have to use them correctly.

Norkum knows of people who lock the front wheel to a bike rack, leaving the rest of the bike open to theft. Then he pointed to a short post in front of his store.

“Someone locked their bike to that,” he said, lifting his arms to show how easy it would have been for a thief to lift it off and ride away.

“In many cases, the bikes have been left unlocked, with their owner intending to leave them for short periods of time,” RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey said in an email. “In some cases, the bikes have disappeared from back yards, or balconies and the thefts can often go unnoticed for a number of days or even weeks. Some complainants report returning to find their locks removed or cut and their bike missing.”

Bikes also need to be locked on car racks. Some of those do come with security features.

“That’s not good enough,” Norkum said. “That’s good enough for going to a gas station, filling up and running in, paying your bill and running back. That’s good enough for that. You’re going in now and have a meal for an hour? No. Put a U-lock on, put a chain lock on.”

He even suggests locking the bike when it’s stored in a garage, since those can easily be broken into.

The demand for high end stolen bikes is so great that Norkum doesn’t believe they are staying in Kelowna because they can easily be identified. Some are one of a kind.

And some bike models may be targeted.

He had a bike on display at a local car dealership. Someone smashed the showroom window, walked past cars with keys in them and stole his shop’s $5,900 bike.

He also recommended that people sign up for the Garage 529 program (the man who created the program cycled from 5 to 9).

Owners register details of their bike on line for free and put what is billed as a tamper-proof sticker on the bike. If it’s stolen, an app can be used to alert police agencies and others to look for it and, if it’s recovered, police can easily identify the owner.

And, stolen bikes do get found.

“In reviewing a few of these files, I have noted one case where a theft suspect was identified by investigators, the $1,700 bike recovered and returned to its owner and potential charges are pending against a 38-year-old Kelowna man,” O’Donaghey wrote in his email.

He also recommended this City of Kelowna web site for more information.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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