When armed tactical police raided a west Edmonton home last week, officers discovered a trove of stolen bicycles.
Around 37 mountain bikes were recovered from the property during the Nov. 4 bust.
Sgt. Ian Smith with Edmonton police said hoards of stolen bikes are common in the city.
Thieves with little knowledge of bikes will steal and stockpile them at whim in the hopes of selling them online or at the scrap yard, Smith said.
In these criminal schemes, quantity often takes precedence over quality.
“Some of these houses with a lot of stolen property in them, they have a lot of just random property and it isn’t always clear what they’re going to do with it all,” Smith said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM.
“It can be very messy and even just hazardous to walk through these places just because of the sheer volume of items that are in them.
“The big challenge is trying to connect these bikes to their owners.”
At the time of the search, only one of the 37 recovered bikes had been reported stolen.
Investigators have since tracked down 10 owners but that leaves nearly 30 mountain bikes sitting in police storage.
Bikes are rarely reunited with their owners, Smith said. In 2018, 1,530 bicycles were reported stolen; only 50 were returned to owners. More than 1,000 were sent to auction because the owners couldn’t be identified.
Edmontonians are rarely choosing to report their bikes as stolen, Smith said. And even fewer have documented identifying details such as make, model and serial number. Police don’t return bikes when people can’t prove ownership.
“Some of these bikes can be quite high-end,” he said.
“They can range up to the $5,000 to $10,000 mark, which is more expensive than some cars out there so it’s very important to report them stolen.”
You can’t run faster than someone can ride your bike away from you.-Ian Smith
The Edmonton Police Service has introduced a new program to make it easier for owners to find lost or stolen bikes.
Bike Index is a not-for-profit registry that allows people to create an online account for a bike, registering its serial number and other identifying details, as well as contact information for the owner.
Cyclists can register their bikes free of charge to the registry. They can report it stolen with the click of a button, and police officers will be provided with real-time data on the theft.
In the end, the best way to protect your bike is to lock it up, Smith said. A high-quality U-lock is recommended, with cables through the wheels to secure them.
“If you are out of sight of your bike, you need to lock it up and it needs to be a decent lock, ” Smith said.
“Gone are the days when you can just into the store and lean your bike against the window because if you think about it, you can’t run faster than someone can ride your bike away from you.”