Locked bicycle thefts on rise in fifth precinct


From July 20 to August 18, 2010 in the Fifth Precinct there have been 46 theft reports of stolen bicycles. The Fifth Precinct comprises Uptown and border neighborhoods. These reports have been scattered across the precinct and include bicycles stolen largely from outside residences and commercial or public buildings. This does not include burglary reports in which a bicycle may have been stolen. 

Of the 46 bicycle theft reports, this is breakdown:

  • 36 of the 46 bicycles were locked (roughly 78%)

  • 2 of the 46 bicycles were unlocked (roughly 4%)

  • 8 of the 46 were unspecified whether or not they were locked (roughly 17%)

Note that although it states 46 bicycles above, these statistics are based on the number of reports. In some cases, more than one bicycle was stolen so the actual number of stolen bicycles likely exceeds 46.

The majority of the bicycles that have been stolen in the last month have been locked.

Many of these locks were specified to be cable or chain locks. The only reports that specify U-locks were cases in which only the front wheel was locked with the U-lock, and the bicycle itself was detached and stolen.

The thieves appear to be able to operate quickly. In some cases, the bicycles were left alone for less than 15 minutes or were within a few feet of areas that seemed as though they would be well occupied.

What You Can Do

  • Use a U-lock. Cable and chain locks have been compromised in some cases. If you use a U-lock, be sure to lock it to the frame as well as front wheel. It’s better to lock the bicycle than to leave it unlocked.

  • Record the serial number on your bike. Thousands of bikes are stolen and recovered each year in Minneapolis . Last year only about 2% of recovered bicycles were returned to the owners. This is usually due to lack of serial numbers or an inability for the victim to positively identify their bicycle. Bicycles that are recovered and not returned to owners are sold at police auctions every year.

  • Call 911 on suspicious activity. This includes if you witness what appears to be a bike theft in progress or anyone loitering near parked bikes.

  • If you have any suspect information on bicycle thieves, please call the MPD Tips Line at 612.692.8477

  • Lock both wheels on your bike.

Please visit www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/police/outreach/docs/safe-staff-map.pdf to locate contacts in crime prevention for your area.

The following is an excerpt from the UNN May 2008 issue’s “Wheels of Steal” article written by Bruce Cochran. Although Bruce is an avid cyclist these additional tips are not necessarily endorsed by the Minneapolis Police Dept.

Lock And Load

Generally, new U-locks are the best choice. The old ones with barrel keys were found to be easy to pick. With a U-lock you want to buy as small a loop as possible. This leaves less wiggle room for crowbars and other leverage devices. Also, locate the lock so the key entry is facing down. Cables might be more convenient and lighter but can quickly be snipped or sawed through. Always lock the frame first. If you have additional locks and time, lock up the wheels and seat post or remove them. Quick release wheels will simply be left on the rack while the frame is removed if not locked. When done, consider taking the seat, bags, light, tire pump and odometer and anything else with you that can easily be removed. If you have to make a choice about what to lock up, I consider helmets a lower priority. The kind of person executing the risky behavior of stealing is not the kind of person looking for a safety device like your sweaty helmet to keep or sell.

Self Sabotage

This technique is what I like to call self sabotage. When a thief is scoping out your bike they’re more often than not rating its “street value”. They may try to re-sell it on the street for cash. In addition to a valuable brand name, they want a bike as new looking as possible. So up front, you can put all sorts of stickers all over your bike or you can paint it an unpopular color.

Now, if you get somewhere and realize you’ve left your lock at home, consider temporary self sabotage. Loosen the quick-release levers on the seat and wheels and disconnect the brakes. And if you’re really anxious about leaving your bike without a lock, deflate the tires a little or a lot. Thieves seldom show up with pickup trucks. They prefer to ride off. You want to slow this person way down or, ideally, convince them to give up on your bike.

The Trade-up

Now I’m not  a cop but I play one in my head, so listen to me when I tell you that if you keep your bike in a garage make sure it is locked up inside the garage and ALWAYS keep the door closed and hide your bike if the garage has windows. When the weather is warm, attentive thieves simply ride down the alley with a junker and swap it for your ride if they can get in. This is called “The Trade-Up”.