An Edmonton man is facing charges following what police say is their most significant investigation into stolen bicycles in the city in recent history.
Edmonton police said they found more than 80 stolen bikes and hundreds of bicycle parts worth a total value of $15,000 to $20,000 at a home near 105 Street and 63 Avenue.
Police said they could not comment on what the suspect may have been doing with the bikes but said four of them were taken back to their rightful owners after they were able to provide the bikes’ serial numbers and other identification.
Jimmy Markortoff, 57, has been charged with two counts of possession of stolen property under $5,000. Police said additional charges are pending against Markortoff.
Edmonton police and the City of Edmonton launched the Bike Theft Prevention campaign on Thursday to encourage cyclists to take initiatives to stop their bicycles from being stolen.
Those initiatives include:
-locking up your bike;
-reporting a stolen bike to police;
-recording your bike’s serial number.
“It only takes seconds for something to get stolen and it can take place anywhere — in your home, at parkades or anywhere on city streets,” said Const. Mike Zacharuk with the Community Action Team.
A serial number, identification and copy of a police report is needed before a bike can be reclaimed by the owner.
“Even if you show up to claim your bike, if you don’t have the information, we can’t return it to you,” Zacharuk said.
Six-hundred bikes were reported stolen in Edmonton through the first five months of 2018, according to police.
In 2016, 2,000 bikes were stolen across the city. Last year, the number rose to 2,171 stolen bicycles. Zacharuk said the number has been on the rise over the last five years.
“Most of the time, when we come across a bike we suspect to be stolen, it’s integrated with another type of crime, whether it’s a traffic infraction where we stopped an individual for, lawful detention purposes [or] found during a search warrant,” Zacharuk said.
Between 25 and 30 stolen or abandoned bikes are recovered by police every week; only 24 per cent are returned to their rightful owner. Zacharuk said the rest are held for 30 days before they are sent to auction.
While police said they can’t pinpoint the reason for the high number of bike thefts in the city, Councillor Scott McKeen said he believes poverty, homelessness and the opioid crisis are factors.
He also said it’s “incumbent” on the city and city council to provide more bike lock-ups for cyclists.
McKeen said an inquiry about bike lockers has been conducted and a report is coming back to council in the coming months.
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