Where do Montreal’s stolen bikes end up?

An investigation carried out by Radio-Canada’s Enquête program found that selling stolen bikes is big business in Montreal.

Every year, about 20,000 bicycles are stolen in Montreal

These men buy bikes legally, and then sell them to their home countries in Africa for four times the price. (Radio-Canada)

An investigation carried out by Radio-Canada’s Enquête program found that selling stolen bikes is big business in Montreal.

Every year about 20,000 bicycles are stolen on the island, but most victims never report the theft to police. For instance, in 2012, only 1,846 bike thefts were reported.

Philippe and Dominique, whose identity we are not revealing, track down bicycle thieves.

“There are thieves who prowl the night, searching in alleyways and backyards, and simply help themselves,” Philippe said.

It’s estimated that one of of two cyclists in Montreal has had his/her bike stolen at least once.

For sale

Re-selling bikes is big business in Montreal.

A number of unclaimed stolen bikes end up at municipal auctions.

Enquête spoke with a group of men who buy the bikes legally for a small price, and then sell them in their home country in Africa for four times as much.

“I’ve been doing this for 10 years,” one man told Enquête reporters.

The investigative program also found there were suspicious transactions taking place at L'Accueil Bonneau, a homeless shelter in Montreal, where one man bought several bikes last summer.

Similar situations are occurring in some parks or streets.

One Enquête employee was offered a bike for $40 — although it was worth $600.

The seller said he stole it about a month earlier near Cadillac metro station, in Montreal’s east end.

Booming business

There are a number of locations across Montreal where used bikes are sold.

“This is a sign of a flourishing economy that knows how to stock up on its supply,” said Armand Poupart, a lawyer specializing in municipal law.

But many bikes are suspected of being stolen. 

Despite a municipal bylaw, shop owners don’t always keep a registry of the items they’ve purchased or re-sold.

Some said they had never even heard of such a bylaw.

Montreal police can't say just how big the bicycle resale business is on the island.

“We don't do that kind of research and we’re not keeping numbers at this time,” said Insp.​ Alain Gagnon, chief of station 38 in the Plateau-Mont-Royal.

It appears bikes are most often stolen in the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough, Rosemont—La-Petite-Patrie and downtown.

Tips to Avoid Bike Theft:

  • Lock your bike
  • Avoid leaving it near exits and entrances of metro stations
  • Don’t park it in the same place
  • Never leave your bike outside overnight
  • Take down its serial number, keep the receipt and a photo of your bike