Utah Stories

Organized Bike Theft

How to easily protect your bike from theft with a few simple steps.


A thief stealing a bike

In 2014, the capital city’s bike theft problem got so intense, Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD) set up a sting operation. The department placed vulnerable bikes outfitted with GPS trackers around the city. When the bikes were stolen, officers tracked them down and three arrests were made.

Utah Stories became familiar with this problem when our delivery bicycle was stolen just a few months after we bought it. Investigating this crime on our own, we found a network of drug addicts stealing bikes and selling them for cash to much more organized buyers.

With the warm temperatures and increased bike traffic in a very bike-friendly city, thefts are on the rise. According to Detective Cody Lougy, most bike thefts are crimes of opportunity and the rides are sold for quick cash. “Most thefts are done by drug addicts, particularly heroin and meth addicts.”

Detective Lougy says that to protect your bike, write down the serial number. With that number, the police can check for it in the state’s pawn database. If it’s pawned anywhere in the state, it will be in the database.

Many bikes are recovered each year by the police, but are never returned to the owners because they didn’t bother to keep the serial numbers. Those bikes end up going to police auctions.

Even if the bike is taken out of state, police can use the serial number to check the National Crime Index Service and recover it.

Of course, thieves can remove serial numbers easily enough, and so, in addition to writing down and storing the serial number somewhere, it’s a good idea to etch the serial number onto the bike in an unremovable spot.

The SLCPD also recommends using a high quality U-bolt lock with a cable. If possible, remove the front wheel from the bike and lock it to the frame. Besides writing down and storing a bike’s serial number, you can register your bike with the police department. Doing so makes recovery faster and easier. And finally, when at home, keep bikes indoors.bike-theft-parts-small

Story by Connie Lewis

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