This Brunswick family, Daisy Wilson, Nic Kocher, Joanna Wilson, Rollo Wilson Kocher and scar Wilson Kocher have had 8 bikes stolen over the past 4 years. Photo: Paul JeffersBicycle crime has hit a five-year high in Victoria as opportunistic thieves active in inner-city hipster hotspots disappear with hundreds of cycles every year.
In the past financial year more than 5000 stolen bikes – or almost 100 every week – were reported to Victoria Police, data obtained by The Age show.
In some postcodes the numbers of stolen bicycles now outstrip stolen cars. These areas include the central Melbourne suburbs of Carlton, Fitzroy and Parkville, and the Victorian towns of Wangaratta, Sale and Horsham.
With some high-end bikes now valued at as much as a car, victims can be left significantly out of pocket. A Ballarat Scenic Cyclists Group member recently had his $5000 racing road bike pinched during a home burglary.
The state’s bicycle groups say cases of bike thievery rarely end happily for the victims.
“It’s very uncommon for people to get their bikes back,” Melbourne Bicycle User Group spokesman Nicholas Dow said. “Because people are [stealing them] for profit, the bike is going to be sold.”
In Melbourne’s CBD, almost 1600 bikes have been pilfered in the past five years, at a rate almost 50 per cent higher than that of car thefts.
In the suburbs, Brunswick is Melbourne’s hub of bike crime, with the number of missing bikes almost doubling in five years, to 143 last year.
Thieves have stolen eight bikes from one Brunswick West family since 2010.
Joanna Wilson said brazen criminals often targeted their home during hard-rubbish collection periods, when they used bolt cutters or other implements to unshackle the bikes locked up at the front of the house.
It is a crime spree that has probably cost the family of five about $5000, because none of the bikes had been recovered. The family’s three children now store their bicycles in their bedrooms.
Ms Wilson, who owns Brunswick cafe John Gorilla, said she knew people in her neighbourhood who owned bikes valued up to $18,000 and families that used bicycles as their only form of transport. “They’ll even take their bikes on the train to go camping,” she said.
Throughout the state there have been 22,271 cases of bikes being stolen in the past five years, in comparison with 76,076 reports of stolen cars.
Police and the Bicycle Network stress that riders should use a good-quality lock – and a sturdy fixed object to chain their bike to – when parking in public.
Mr Dow said he was aware of a case in which bikes chained to a no-standing sign in Melbourne’s CBD had routinely disappeared, because thieves would simply pull the loose sign from its foundation.
And even paying for additional security may not be a guaranteed solution, as Lewis Spears, 20, found out when his $600 wheels were stolen from a so-called secure bike facility near Flinders Street Station. After the incident he noticed a laminated sign warning patrons of a bike theft gang operating in the area.
Police say they have difficulty returning stolen bikes to their owners, partly because they struggle to identify the cycles found in recovered loot.
“Bikes can be returned to their owners if engraved with your licence number,” a Victoria Police spokeswoman said.
“Alternatively, take a photo of your bicycle. This will greatly assist police in being able to return it to you.”
Authorities also say bike owners should have their cycles insured.