Fewer bikes stolen in Winnipeg during the first months of pandemic

Winnipeg police say bike thefts have dropped dramatically during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Randall Paull/Global News

Fewer bikes are being stolen in Winnipeg during the COVID-19 pandemic — and police hope the trend is here to stay.

Data from the Winnipeg Police Service shows there were 41 bikes reported stolen in March this year — the lowest figure for March since 2014 — while April saw 91 bikes taken, also the fewest in six years.

Authorities recorded 186 bike thefts in the city in May — the fewest since 2015 — and June saw 193 bikes stolen for the lowest month since 2013.

“We attribute it to a few different reasons,” Const. Jay Murray said. “We think there’s a lot less people out on the road, more people are at home, people aren’t necessarily locking their bikes up in places where they’re more vulnerable to theft — and we think that awareness is also a big piece of that.”

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Read more: Here’s how to prevent your bike from being stolen: Winnipeg bike shop owner

Philip Roadley, owner of Bikes and Beyond on Henderson, says while bike thefts have seemed to slow down lately, they are still an issue.

“I always ask where the bike got stolen, and the top three things are it wasn’t locked up, it was locked up by a cheap bike, or was in my garage or in a locked up area in my condo garage,” Roadley said.

As the pandemic continues, people are spending more time out and about than they were in March and April — and they are more likely to park their bike somewhere outside their home, making it more vulnerable to theft.

“Ideally if you can use two locks instead of one, because then it takes twice as long to get your bike as before and they’ll always take the bike that’s easier,” Roadley said.

“A good U-lock, if you look at a Kryptonite lock or one of the better brands, they’re not round, they’re sort of oval, so you actually have to cut two sides of the lock before the lock will fail. And always make sure it’s locked up to something secure — where like a sign post they can take out, unbolt the bottom, or a chain link fence, they can clip the fence — so you have to make sure it’s locked up very well.”

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Murray says parking your bike in a busier, more visible spot may also prevent would-be thieves from going to work on it.

“Sometimes we see people park a bike in a back lane that’s out of sight, and what that does is it gives a potential thief a lot more time with that bike to defeat any type of locking mechanism, so try to park your bike somewhere public if you can.”

“If you’re commuting to work, a lot of businesses have that option to bring a bike inside, then it’s not stored out on the street and again, less accessible to thieves.”

Police also point to the bike registry as a helpful tool should a bike go missing.

“It’s very useful for us — especially when it comes to recovering bikes — and we certainly encourage the use of it,” Murray said. “It’s also equally important, even if you have your bike on the registry, to report it stolen as well, as that often can give us grounds to arrest someone.”

Read more: Winnipeg cyclists able to register bikes online and view city routes

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If your bike does get stolen, you might run into trouble trying to replace it quickly, as local cycling shops have very limited stock these days.

“Demand is quite high and supply is very low; it’ll be October before my store starts looking like it’s not going out of business,” Roadley said. “The basic mountain bike between $500 and $1,000, it’s been tough to get and it’s tough to keep in stock. I have nothing in that category in stock currently.”

Meantime, Murray says police would like to see the positive trend with bike thefts carry on.

“It is encouraging to see these numbers drop — it’s something that we hope can continue to drop even after the pandemic seems to sort itself out.”

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