Hamilton cyclists raising the alarm with recent rash of bike thefts

Hamilton police are warning cyclists of a recent rash of bike thefts around the city.

Police advise all cyclists to write down their bike's serial number, just in case it's stolen

There has been a spike in bicycle thefts in Charlottetown over the past few weeks, police say. (Shane Ross/CBC)

Bike theft in Hamilton is on the rise this summer and police are warning cyclists to lock it up, or lose it.

On Friday, Hamilton police delivered the message to cyclists advising them of the sharp rise in bike thefts this summer. Although no data or statistics were provided, officers did say the majority of the thefts reported seems to be from bikes taken from unlocked sheds or garages.

Even if bikes are locked up, it doesn't mean they're safe.

Lock it and still lose it

Sarah Cairns can remember searching for her bike on the morning of July 9 near the corner of James Street North and Murray Street West. When the 33-year-old reached the spot where she parked the bike 10 hours earlier, all she found was the remains of her cable lock, cut in half.

"These thefts can feel very personal and demoralizing," she said.

Although just a recreational cyclist, she said she's had the bike for a long time and had a real attachment to it. She had just finished having it repaired when it was stolen from her. 

For the past three weeks she's been relying on Sobi bikes to help her get where she needs to go, because she hasn't been able to replace it yet.

Even the strongest locks aren't always a deterrent for bike thieves, according to local bike shop owner, Sam Dibussolo. (CBC)

'It's a huge problem right now'

Cairns said most of her friends who ride bikes have had their ride stolen from them over the past year. People need to be aware "that it's a huge problem right now," she said.

If I had known this was going on then I would have made a different decision.- Sarah Cairns, bike theft victim

On local Facebook groups and online forums, bike theft in Hamilton is a hot topic. People can be seen posting pictures of themselves with their bikes and asking others to keep an eye out for the ride. Some users share stories of how they lost their own bike to thieves or ideas of where the stolen bikes may end up.

Cairns said it's important for police to let cyclists know how prevalent bike theft in the city has become. The more they know, the less likely they'll leave their bike unattended — locked or not.

"I had a pretty casual attitude about leaving my bike out overnight, and if I had known this was going on then I would have made a different decision," she said.

Police recommend copying down the bike's serial number to help them identify it. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

'I don't leave it anywhere'

Sam Dibussolo, owner of All The Right Gears, said since he opened the bike shop in 2003, he's heard countless stories of people having their bikes stolen. Over the years, the problem has only gotten worse.

Now if you leave a bike outside, it's gone.- Sam Dibussolo, bike shop owner

Thirty or 40 years ago you could leave your bike outside and no one would touch it, he said.

"Now if you leave a bike outside, it's gone."

He said East Gate Square is a particularly bad location for stolen bikes. People will sit in their trucks and watch out for bikes they can steal, he said. With the bolt cutters they carry with them, it won't matter if a bike is locked or not, he said.

"As a rule, I don't bring a bike anywhere, unless it's under me," he said. "I ride it and that's it. I don't leave it anywhere."

Even when youth come into the shop looking to buy a bike, Dibussolo said he advises them not to ride it to school, because it will likely be stolen.

Mitigate the loss

Cairns said if she could go back in time, she would record her bike's serial number and take a clear photo of herself with her bike. She would even look into getting some sort of tracking chip to add to the bike, like the kind they insert into pets.

She said she didn't end up reporting the incident to police because she didn't have the serial number recorded or a good photo of her with the bike. She said she also felt very pessimistic about getting the bike back anyway and decided it wasn't worth the hassle.

Efforts were made to speak to police about bike theft stats, but no one was immediately available for comment. Filling out this bicycle identification form can help you ensure you collect all identifying information about your bike.

Chris Seto | @topherseto


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