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The problem of bike theft (part 2)

In Part 1 of this series, I explained that yes, British Columbia has a problem with bicycle theft. The problem is not limited to Vancouver. For example, here is a video of an alleged theft in Kelowna from 2011:

Here are my gut feelings on this issue:

1) In any given year in BC, more bicycles are stolen than vehicles.

2) These stolen bicycles are used to commit numerous other offences (they are crime enablers).

3) The recovery rate for stolen bicycles is less than for stolen vehicles.

4) Of the bicycles recovered by police, few are returned to their owners.

5) The total value of the non-recovered stolen bicycles exceeds that of the non-recovered stolen vehicles.

It is difficult to determine whether my gut feelings are correct. Changes to the UCR2 reporting survey in 2009 mean that police agencies no longer report bicycle theft to Statistics Canada as a separate sub-category. Instead it is reported in the category of Theft Over or Theft Under $5000, depending on the value of the bicycle. Auto theft still gets its own category, and so does the relatively new crime of Altering / Removing / Destroying VIN. (VIN stands for Vehicle Identification Number.)

People who know me will laugh to hear me say this… but this is a very car-centric way of looking at transportation-related crime. Here, for example, is a link to the monthly crime stats released by the Vancouver Police Department for June 2013. You can see that 89 vehicles were reported stolen in that month. But there is no way to determine how many bicycles were stolen. In order to put together a province-wide picture of bike theft, we basically need to puzzle together random media releases and/or crime reports from all the police departments in BC. This makes it difficult for a researcher to understand the scope of the problem across the entire province.

Two approaches have been used so far in BC: Community-based theft prevention initiatives, and targeted enforcement. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Bait bikes, for example, suffered a minor legal setback in Vancouver a few years ago. Now the RCMP is trying a new bait bike program along the Sea-to-Sky corridor.

Both of these approaches (prevention initiatives and targeted enforcement) are important. However, property crime overall is trending downwards, yet bicycle theft seems to be increasing. This is a big deal. It points to the need for a new approach.

It is a fact that legislation has not been used in this province to tackle the issue of bike theft. I will look at that in Part 3 of this series.

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