Unusual theft in East Vancouver prompts police reminder to lock doors

An unusual case of theft has prompted Vancouver police to remind people to lock their homes and cars at night to keep opportunistic thieves at bay.

Amelie Croteau says thief took off with couple's bikes and car after they left home unlocked

Vancouver police are warning people to keep their doors locked. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

An unusual case of theft has prompted Vancouver police to remind people to lock their homes and cars at night to keep opportunistic thieves at bay. 

Amelie Croteau and her partner were sleeping in their East Vancouver home early Thursday morning when a stranger walked into their home, took their keys, broke into their storage unit, and stole two expensive mountain bikes and their car.

The couple had forgotten to lock their front door that night. 

"He grabbed all the keys that were the closest to the door," Croteau said.  

The suspect discovered their locked storage room next door, where he found the mountain bikes worth a combined $8,000 secured with several heavy locks. 

"He was in the bike room for about 30 minutes and was trying to figure out key locks. He grabbed some helmets and lights," she said.

Surveillance footage shows the thief making off with the bikes. He then found their car, which was parked on the street.

Amelie Croteau reviews security footage that shows a thief stealing her expensive mountain bikes. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Investigators say thieves are opportunistic and look for unlocked vehicles and homes to target. Expensive bikes are a prime target.

Every year, some 2,000 are stolen in Vancouver, but only a few get returned to their owners. Vancouver police urge anyone with an expensive bike to register the serial number through an app, Project 529.

Just down the street from Croteau, Caleb del Begio is all too familiar with bike theft. He says his home has been broken into three years in a row, his mountain bikes stolen as well. 

The theft prompted him to join the Facebook group Stolen Bikes Vancouver. Del Begio says people are posting similar stories of theft on a near daily basis.

"It's people of all sorts who are really affected by this," he said.

"People who are relying on that bike to commute, people who have poured all their extra savings into saving for a mountain bike because it's what they love to do."

Del Begio and his wife now keep their bikes chained to their bed frame at night.

"You have to just assume that somebody's going to come in," he said. "It's not a pleasant way to live your life, that's for sure."

With files from Tanya Fletcher