Bike theft has long been an issue for students and residents of Waterloo but recent efforts by Waterloo Regional Police turned up two bicycle chop shops in the Waterloo/Kitchener area.
According to CBC News, Waterloo Police raided two local addresses over the long weekend: one in Waterloo the other in Kitchener. Although only one of the bikes at the Waterloo address was able to be tied directly to a bike reported stolen through its serial number, the other bikes are also believed to have been stolen. Eight more stolen bikes were found at the Kitchener address. The discovery of the bike chop shops was the happy result of arrests of two separate individuals in their mid-thirties possessing stolen bikes.
How do you know if the secondhand bike you’re looking to buy wasn’t stolen? Police say buyers should look out for bikes with destroyed or modified serial numbers, bikes that have been repainted, bikes built from a variety of parts and any bicycles at a price that seems too good to be true. These are not hard rules. Plenty of bikes around campus have been cobbled together from scrounged parts and spray painted strange colours to have the most reliable ride with the least likelihood of it being stolen at minimal cost. Take a look at racks around campus; my favourites include the bikes that are completely gold, and the bike with pink handle bar streamers. Keeping it classy people! (No sarcasm intended.)
What exactly is a normal amount of bike theft? People take unlocked bikes for joyrides all the time and in such a large, transient population, there are bound to be a few bad apples. University is pretty similar to summer camp, where the “if you don’t want to lose it, don’t bring it” adage applies liberally. Statistics on bike theft are hard to come by. This is partially because many students purchase inexpensive bikes to get them through the semester and don’t feel the time and effort for reporting its theft is warranted. However, in a June 26 issue of ‘The Cord’ (Wilfred Laurier’s school newspaper) reported that bike thefts in April and May were up 15% from 2012. Campus police at University of Waterloo as well as at Wilfred Laurier University were cautioning cyclists to be more cautious.
Your bicycle may be slightly safer today, but the closure of two bike chop shops does not mean your two wheeled ride is completely safe. It would seem that students can’t have nice things, and if we do, more effort has to be put in to protecting them. The most surefire way to protect yourself against taking a large, unexpected financial hit is to keep two bikes. That way an inexpensive one can be used for everyday use and the other for serious riding. Reliability, even with a cheap, beater bike, can be compromised when thieves take pieces of your bike like a wheel, handlebars or the seat. For this reason it is important to still invest in a good lock and to get as many components of your bike caught in it as possible. It is promising that these bike chop shops have been discovered and closed down but also concerning that they existed in the first place. So take heart, but don’t let that justify getting sloppy in protecting your bicycle! Happy cycling, friends.