While I had a beautiful Thanksgiving in the company of lovely people and expertly prepared food, my day didn’t start off so great. I awoke to a neighbor telling me I’d had “a visitor” the night before. Upon closer inspection, I found my bicycle lock cable cut in half and lying in the space where my bicycle used to be. While the bike was moderately expensive a decade ago, I was more upset that I’d made plans to give it to a friend. The experience also made me feel vulnerable and a bit paranoid.
The thief even left me some garbage for me to take out; a spray-painted junker bike comprised of mismatched parts, with no brakes or shifters.
The responding deputy asked the usual questions, and, of course, asked if I knew the bike’s serial number.
I’ve recorded and stored the serial numbers from my cameras, lenses, emergency scanner, and even my laptop, but I just never got around to writing my bike’s numbers down.
While I feel sheepish to admit that, I also have to wonder if it would have done any good.
I have personally seen piles of bicycle parts in encampments at the east end of 5th Street, behind the billboards near South Beach and during a recent cleanup along Elk Valley Road. Months ago, I found a cut bicycle lock along Starfish Way after a caller told me she’d had both of her kids’ bikes stolen. I regularly read the dispatch logs and hear reports of stolen bicycles on the scanner. It seems bikes are a hot commodity.
Asked about the most stolen items in the city, Police Chief Ivan Minsal’s list certainly included bicycles. He said bike thefts are on the rise statewide, noting that bikes range in value up to more than $10,000.
Chief Minsal said local officers see many instances where thieves have used bolt cutters to take bicycles from car carriers. He said some local hotels even feature signs directing guests to bring bicycles into their rooms at night to prevent theft. One would think a visitor would be hesitant to return to Crescent City if the memories of their last vacation involved filling out a police report.
Nonetheless, when my bike was stolen, it was parked only feet from a neighbor’s similarly expensive bike which had not been stolen. The difference? A big gnarly chain and a giant padlock secured her cycle, while mine was locked with a thinner cable. I’ll be purchasing a similar chain later today. Minsal recommended a sturdy chain and lock for my new bike, as well as registering it online with the National Bike Registry at https://www.nationalbikeregistry.com/. He also suggested logging photos of your bike on your phone, along with serial numbers and accessories. Inscribing a personalized number will help even further with recovery, but Minsal cautioned people not to use their social security number.
I know I’m not not to blame for the fact that people steal bicycles, regardless of my lack of preparation for it. We all wish we could say we live in a place where we can leave things unlocked but, alas, that’s just not the world anymore. So I guess I’ve learned the hard way that I need to take preemptive measures when it comes to my next bike.
Reach Tony Reed at firstname.lastname@example.org .