Diane Selkirk got a text from a neighbour in her Vancouver condo building last Sunday morning, letting her know that someone had cut a hole in the parkade's gate.
By the time Selkirk went down to investigate, another resident had realized his family's bicycles had been stolen out of the secured bike lock-up area.
"We started realizing that it was a fairly significant break-in because we went into the bike cage and started counting the number of locks that were cut," Selkirk said.
Altogether, Selkirk says, about seven bicycles and a Vespa scooter were stolen between midnight and 5 a.m.
When she reviewed the security footage, she saw the thieves had cut through a metal parkade gate in a matter of minutes. They then cut through a metal bike cage and the locks on the bicycles. The burglars left with their loot through the building's front door.
"It was really alarming to see how quickly they were able to get through our parking gate," she said.
"That just kind of made me feel sick. I just thought about how easy it was and how we delude ourselves into thinking we're safe all the time."
'They will do anything it takes'
Security expert Shahbaz Munshey says thefts like this are common in Metro Vancouver, and they have become more frequent during the pandemic.
Munshey, who was hired by Selkirk's condo strata to evaluate the building's security, says many of his clients don't realize how easy it is for thieves to break into parkades and access areas with high-value items.
"A lot of these buildings are targeted because they're just not secure enough," Munshey said.
"[Thieves] are adamant and they know there's value in these buildings and they will do anything it takes."
Blowtorches, grinders and bolt cutters are some of the most common tools thieves use to gain access to parkades, he says, all made even easier with cordless technology.
According to Vancouver Police Department statistics, residential break-ins have been on a steady decline over the past decade. In 2020 there were 27 per cent fewer residential break-ins than there were in 2019.
In an email, Const. Tania Visintin said the decrease is likely due to the greater number of people at home during the pandemic.
But Munshey, who specializes in apartment and condo buildings, says he's never been busier in his 30 years in business than he has been during the pandemic.
"We've been quite busy through the last two years," he said.
When Munshey consults with his clients, he usually advises them to harden target areas like bike cages as much as possible, and reinforce metal gates.
But Munshey says another part of his job is educating tenants about how to protect themselves. He recommends they keep any high-priced items like expensive bicycles in their suites.
His recommendations also include condo residents get to know their neighbours and not let anyone in the building they don't recognize, even during the day.
"A lot of the crime doesn't just happen at night," he said.