Stolen bikes a constant and rampant issue in Kingston

·6 min read

Kingston Police have recovered a number of bikes and have packed several storage rooms, apparently unable to keep up with the number of stolen bikes in the city.

Recovered bikes are run through CPIC and kept in storage for thirty days to six months, until they are either returned to their owner or sold at a police auction.

However many are frustrated with the lack of effort and efficiency put into dealing with bike theft and reuniting victims of theft with their property.

A reddit user in the Kingston forum, who asked to be identified by their username cjbest, say they recovered two bikes in their neighbourhood that they reported to police, and came away with the impression that bike thefts are simply not taken seriously.

"Detailed descriptions of the bikes and the location were given to police who failed to do a simple cross check of stolen bike reports. Had they done so, they would have immediately found the owner of one nearly new bike who reported the theft as part of a break-in. Police attended the scene and took her report formally at that time. Had the list been checked, they could have returned her bike the next day, or even called me to ride it over to her house," they said in a message.

"It was 7 weeks later - when I finally gave up on the police pickup and put up posters locally - that the owner got her bike back. By that time, she had spent a considerable sum replacing the lost bicycle. This means the lack of checking a simple list of reported stolen and found bikes cost her about $2000."

Jake Fetheridge had two of his bikes stolen last summer by a thief who specifically targeted his bikes and would have needed to know the layout of the building and have a key to the bike room. He says his attempts to recover his bikes were hindered by his building superintendent at Homestead delaying sharing footage with police. Although he said the officer who responded to the initial call was helpful, he doesn't feel police in general care very much about the issue of bike theft. Now he and his girlfriend keep their bikes in their dining room because that's the only way they can trust them to be secure.

That is advice echoed by Sophia Kudriavtsev, a volunteer mechanic at Yellow Bike Action. The volunteer run organization repairs and refurbishes bicycles for sale, with an emphasis on keeping bike riding affordable. She says herself and other volunteers always stress the importance of bike security.

"Even locked garages we're seeing are not safe. We try to tell people if you can, bring your bike inside with you at night. Don't leave it out overnight because even if you have it locked up there are people who will go around and just strip it for parts."

Kurdriavtsev says the shop sees a lot of clients who are victims of bike theft. She says bike theft is a complicated issue which is intertwined with poverty and addiction issues, especially in this past difficult year.

"For people living on the streets or living rough, bikes can be traded like cash. So if someone can steal a bike and trade it for something that they need to survive day to day, it's a necessity for them. So when we talk about bike theft it's also really important that we talk about how to support folks who are engaging in it."

She says she's also heard of more seemingly sophisticated operations in town, where higher end bikes are taken to chop shops, stripped of any identifying information and taken apart and sold back into the community, or often sent to other cities "in truckloads".

Other residents say these chop shops can be seen as plain as day in the Heights. One member of the Stolen Bikes Kingston Facebook group who chose not to be identified says police have been to their building over fifteen times in the last year for incidents. The user says one tenant, who police know by name, is seen nightly returning with a bike trailer full of parts but police will not act. The user says that both their city counsellor and the police chief have been contacted about the issue and have given no response.

Other victims of theft have been left with optimism from engaging with police. Breanne Johnson and her husband had one bike and a "G-wheel" taken from their locked garage just last week, and she was not left with the feeling that it would be a priority for police. They're concerned that it will turn into a safety issue with the boldness of thieves trespassing to steal bikes.

Some victims have been luckier with retrieving their bikes, through both police intervention and community endeavours like the Facebook group.

Don Davies, a former detective, had his bike stolen from his shed and it was recovered from a thief who police were familiar with. He thinks how brazen thieves have become should be stressed as a concern and says there needs to be a joint effort between community and police to help quell this issue.

Yellow Bike Action's Kudriavtsev says the issues with reunification of bikes recovered by police lies both in lack of communication of bike safety by merchants as well as inefficiency in the police registration system.

"A lot of people don't know about it, they don't understand how it works, and even if the police do recover your bike they don't reach out to you, you have to reach out to them. My understanding is with all the bikes in storage, is people get their bikes stolen, they don't have it registered, they don't have any identifying information about it because they were never provided that information in purchasing a bike. So police recover it and it's just sitting in storage because people have no way to prove that it's theirs."

She encourages riders to mark down their serial numbers and to take a photo with their bicycle, as well as registering your bike with the Kingston Police and the website Garage 529. She adds that she believes part of the issue is that police departments are working in isolation, whereas a lot of bikes are leaving town and Kingston Police are recovering some bikes that appear to be from out of town.

Residents can register their bike or report it stolen here.

Police say you can recover a stolen bike with the serial number, or in some cases with unique identifying features.

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, YGK News

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