Halifax bike vendors offer theft-prevention tips after spate of break-ins

·4 min read
Regular bike locks can be cut with side-cutter pliers or diagonal plyers. Thieves use power tools like lock grinders to break padlocks.  (Tina Lovgreen/CBC - image credit)
Regular bike locks can be cut with side-cutter pliers or diagonal plyers. Thieves use power tools like lock grinders to break padlocks. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC - image credit)

After a Dalhousie student recently had his high-end mountain bike stolen from his underground parkade, local vendors are encouraging people to secure their bikes, no matter their value.

"Most bikes are stolen on opportunity," said Andrew Feenstra, owner of Cyclesmith bike shop on Agricola Street.

"Maybe it's not locked up, or, you know, it's locked up with a very cheap lock, and they're just gonna use a basic pair of side-cutters that will cut that lock, and that does happen, we see that all the time."

Ben Hewins, an immunology student at Dalhousie, never thought his professional mountain bike worth nearly $12,000 would be stolen right from under him — literally.

Hewins bike was taken from a locked cage located inside the underground parking garage of his apartment.

"The thought initially is that it's a really secure building, and you probably aren't going to have to worry too much about these sorts of things," said Hewins, adding his girlfriend's $3,000 bike was also stolen.

Ben Hewin
Ben Hewin

"All together, these two thieves stole about $15,000 worth of bikes in one fell swoop."

Even though his bike was insured, Hewins recommends reading the fine print carefully because his policy only covered $2,000, a fraction of the value of his stolen bike.

And Hewins isn't alone.

Jackson Jenkins is a north-end Halifax resident who reported a similar theft around the same time. His $1,500 bike and nearly 50 others were taken from an underground garage after thieves used a lock grinder to break in.

Police say there could be multiple reasons for fluctuating bike-theft numbers in Halifax but they don't see a pattern.

Feenstra says there are bike-theft crime rings  in larger cities like Montreal and Toronto — something Halifax doesn't have due to the lack of high-end bikes. But just because you own a less-expensive bike, that doesn't mean it won't get stolen.

He recommends using a quality lock and securing your bike in a well-lit space when in public. Once at home, the safest places for your bike is inside.

"Locking it indoors is better," said Feenstra.

Feenstra says bikes stolen off the street are usually later recovered. But Marc Rickard, owner of The Bike Peddler in Dartmouth, says he's seeing fewer of the stolen bikes resurface in the province

"More and more of the time now we're finding that when a bike gets stolen, it gets taken out of the province very quickly and resold somewhere else," said Rickard. "My suspicion is also that stolen bikes are showing up from outside the province here and being resold on places like Marketplace or on Facebook or on Kijiji."

Mike Blotnicky, president of Halifax Buy and Sell Inc., told CBC via email that they had to stop taking bikes on pawn or purchase several years ago due to exactly that problem.

Project 529 Garage
Project 529 Garage

"It was impossible to determine the ownership of a bike, and the odds were that half of the bikes we used to have in our store were stolen."

Ellen Riopelle, operations and advocacy co-ordinator for Halifax Cycling Coalition, recommends registering your bike with an app such as Project 529 Garage, a national database and mobile app that helps fight bike theft. Once you input your bike's serial number and description, other people can view this information through the app.

Riopelle says people can use the app to look out for each other.

"With bike theft, it has to be like a community effort in order to retrieve the bike because it's so hard to track it down because it switches hands a lot often after it's stolen."

Steve Bedard, director of operations at Bicycle Nova Scotia,  a not-for-profit organization that promotes cycling culture says employers and multi-unit residences like condominiums and apartment buildings should put more thought toward providing a secure bike parking location that is behind locked doors in the building.

"A great example of some buildings that are doing so now include Velo Apartments on Gottingen Street and the Joseph Howe building downtown," said Bedard via email.

One of the two alleged bike thieves was arrested, according to Hewins, but police have no further information on the whereabouts of his bike.

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