'It's rampant': Bike theft in Winnipeg soars 109% since 2014

More bikes are disappearing off of Winnipeg streets this year compared to previous years.

170 bikes were reported stolen in Winnipeg in May, but cyclists say the rate is much higher.

Have you seen this bike? Tom Hayward said this bike along with three others were stolen from his garage in June. (Tom Hayward)

More bikes are disappearing off of Winnipeg streets this year compared to previous years.

Bike theft has climbed by 15 per cent compared to the same period in 2015, and by 109 per cent since 2014, according to stats from Winnipeg police.

Just last month 170 bikes were reported stolen to police, compared to 106 in May of 2015, but cyclists and bike shop owners are convinced the rate is significantly higher, because many people don't bother reporting bike theft.  

Number of bikes stolen between January and June in Winnipeg, broken down by year:

  • In 2014, 125 bikes were stolen
  • In 2015, 226 bikes were stolen
  • In 2016, 262 bikes were stolen

"It's rampant" Brendan McAndrew, owner of White Pine Bicycle Co. told CBC News. "Multiple [customers] have come in and their bikes have been stolen off bike racks. If they lock them up to signs, people will go as far pulling signs out of the ground just to get the bike that it's locked to," he said.

What's worse, McAndrew said, is that he's seeing stolen bikes re-appear at his shop to be worked on.

"We know that they're stolen because we worked on those bikes, we know the owners of the those bikes, and then [the bike will] come back to us with their new owner who has either stolen it or bought it from someone who has stolen it."

Without proof of your bikes serial number, McAndrew said it's impossible to prove ownership. 

Criminals and owners take to Kijiji

Instead of turning to police, McAndrew said more customers are turning to websites like Kijiji in hopes of recovering their stolen bike.

"I've heard of customers of ours that have had bikes stolen and they've found it on Kijiji and have gone to a house and in the backyard it's filled with bikes and I've heard about these stories multiple times now from different customers."

Tom Hayward took to Kijiji after four bikes were stolen from his River Heights garage this June.

"You just feel sort of violated," Hayward said. "We think it was two young men, who cleverly set up a wheelbarrow next to a load of topsoil that I had behind the garage and they seemed to deflect any curiosity by the neighbours about why they were there," Hayward said, adding the neighbours thought it was a lawn company, and the men even waved at them.

When the pair left, Hayward said his neighbour found his garage propped open. Four bikes were gone, including his daughter's custom-built  bike worth more than $4,000.

Hayward posted an ad on Kijiji and Facebook of his daughter's bike, in hopes someone will see it and return it. 

He also set up email notifications through Kijiji to alert him when new ads are posted in Winnipeg and Brandon, in case someone is trying to sell the bikes.

"Our odds are probably better of finding it on social media and Kijiji than some stash of bikes somewhere," he said, adding so far he has had no luck.

'Middle-class kids' part of the problem

Dean Sampson owns Sampson's Sporting Life and has seen an influx of calls from customers requesting serial numbers for bikes that were stolen. 

Sampson said the problem is city-wide but some of the hot spots for theft include The Forks, Charleswood and St. James.

"With the internet it's become easy to sell anything stolen, people steal it, post it and it's sold within no time because they price it cheap enough," he said. 

Sampson said bike theft is a quick way to get cash to feed a drug addiction.

"It's not just down and out people that are stealing the bikes unfortunately you have good middle class kids that have gotten into their own problems that they need cash for, and they're part of the problem as well." 

Protect yourself

Sampson and McAndrew both say it's up to cyclists to be diligent and proactive. Both say even in a garage or a shed, bikes should be locked up and if possible, stored in the basement.

McAndrew also encourages riders to register their bike's serial number with the city for $6.40. If it's stolen and recovered, police can then return it.  

Any lock can be cut through, McAndrew said, but a good lock can be at deterrent and some high-end locks can be purchased with warranties attached.

"So when customers come in and buy a $500 bike they can by a lock that's insured for $500. That means if the lock is cut the customer will be reimbursed up to 500 dollars," he said.