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Had your bike stolen lately? Well, join the Facebook club

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Cathy Dobson

When thieves used bolt cutters to steal John Betts’ customized bicycle while it locked to a meter outside his home, he got angry.

“It made me sick inside,” says the 54-year-old Sarnia man. “I’ve had other bikes stolen from me but this one was special. It was a $600 bike. I was really disheartened.”

Perceiving bicycle theft was an escalating problem, he started a Facebook group called Stolen Bikes of Sarnia.

That was two years ago. Today, its nearly 1,000 members post photos of their stolen bikes as well as helpful comments about possible sightings and police reports.

Bicycle theft has always been with us, Betts said. “But it’s getting worse. These people will come right onto your property to take your bike. They carry bolt cutters, so a regular bike lock doesn’t help.”

Betts said he’s convinced drug addition is the primary reason.

“They’ll take your bike and sell it or its parts for a hit,” he said. “I tell everyone, they should take their bike into their house. It’s that bad. There’s really no lock that will prevent it.”

Summer always brings an increase in bicycle thefts, said Const. John Sottosanti of the Sarnia Police Service.

He agrees with Betts it’s connected to the drug culture, but doesn’t agree it’s an escalating crime.

It has always been a problem, and it’s not uncommon for officers to get a search warrant and find a basement full of stolen bikes, he said.

“It’s sad because you’d think you could leave your bike for a few minutes and come back to it,” he said.

“But you can’t. Bikes must be locked. These people aren’t stealing bikes right in front of your face. They watch and wait until you walk away for a few minutes or go inside a building.”

Sgt. Tim Ives of Point Edward OPP said his detachment has a dozen or more stolen bikes in the property room at any given time.

“I don’t think we’re seeing an increase,” he said. “It’s been going on forever.”

Theft is all about opportunity and bikes are an easy target, said Ives.

He said anyone who can describe their stolen bike in detail should check the OPP property room. Police are obligated to keep stolen bicycles for 90 days.

Ives said he likes the idea of Betts’ Stolen Bikes of Sarnia Facebook page.

“It’s proactive. It’s grassroots and gives people direct access to current information instantly,” he said.

Ives and Sottosanti admit most stolen bikes are never recovered. But having a serial number and a unique marking improves the odds.

“Frankly, on our priority list, bicycle theft isn’t as high as some other things,” Ives said.

Betts said that’s something he understands.

“Police don’t have time to chase all this bike theft,” he said. “They are working more than they ever did. I think our police should be commended for all the busts they do make.”

He’d like to see bicycle licensing introduced in Sarnia-Lambton so they are registered and more easily traced.

Sgt. Ives, Const. Sottosanti and Stolen Bikes of Sarnia say theft is less likely if bicycles:

–       Are brought inside at night;

–       Have a serial number and a unique marking etched into the paint;

–       Are photographed, including the etchings;

–       Are locked with a high-quality, solid D-Lock;

–       Are never left outside unlocked, even for a few minutes.

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