Vancouver police uncover massive bike theft ring near Oppenheimer Park

About 150 stolen bikes recovered, now police are trying to find owners

The sheer magnitude of theft is on a scale never before seen by a police officer with 20 years’ experience.

About 150 bikes were displayed by Vancouver police Wednesday morning, the net result of one bust made near Oppenheimer Park in late August.

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Electric bikes, scooters and other bikes were rolled out to reporters, and the losses are in to the six figures. Price points for electric bikes usually start around $2,000, and the Courier saw other high-end bikes worth more than $5,000.

The bikes were recovered from a storage facility in the 800-block of Powell Street and four men were arrested at the scene. They’ve all since been released without charges.

Police are now appealing to anyone who’s had their bike stolen to report it to police through the non-emergency line (604-717-3321) or online at vpd.ca.

“We’re asking that anybody who hasn’t reported their bikes stolen to do so, so we can get these bikes back to you,” said VPD media relations officer Sgt. Aaron Roed.

Roed said little about the four men arrested. Three of them are Vancouverites, while the other is from Surrey. Who owns the storage facility was not disclosed.

Nearly 150 bikes were recovered from a storage facility in the 800-block of Powell Street and four m
Nearly 150 bikes were recovered from a storage facility in the 800-block of Powell Street and four men were arrested at the scene. They’ve all since been released without charges. Photo Dan Toulgoet

The volume of bikes, along with the coordinated effort to steal and store them, points to the work of an organized bike theft group, though Roed wouldn’t comment on that possibility. 

Coun. Pete Fry told the Courier in August he’d heard anecdotal reports of bike chop shop operating near Oppenheimer Park. The storage facility in which the bikes were recovered from is three blocks away from the park.

Roed noted that bike thefts across Vancouver are down compared to this time last year — about 2,000 by the end of August 2018, compared to 1,600 this year.

To that point, Roed stressed the need for verification: bike owners need serial numbers, photos of their bikes and receipts.

Registering bikes with Project 529 is also an invaluable safety net.

The cloud-based system allows cyclists, bike shops and organizations to register bikes, either online at project529.com or using the app, including details like the make, model, colour, serial number and photos. If the bike is ever stolen, the victim can use the app to alert the local cycling community and police.

The web-based database is searchable and can be shared among police forces.

Other tips to prevent bike theft include:

Secure it

The best way to protect yourself against bike theft is to park your bike in a secure bike parking facility. Many workplaces have bike rooms or cages, and some TransLink stations provide lockers and parkades. Other good choices include monitored parking facilities and bike racks in a high traffic area.

Record your serial number

It is often on the underside of your pedal (crank) shaft, and keep it in a safe place.

Register it

Use the free 529 Garage registry at project529.com/garage or use the app anywhere in Metro Vancouver. It alerts others that your bike is stolen and helps police recover and return it to you.

Report it

If your bike is stolen, report it to your local police as soon as possible, your best chance for safe return.

Broadcast it

Social networks have been proven to increase the chance of recovery — post a photo and details of your bike theft experience on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Look for it

Watch online marketplaces, and report or flag suspicious listings. Police do not recommend residents confront bike thieves on their own.

Locking tips:

  • Use a good lock. Don’t use a cable lock as your primary lock. They can be easily cut. Use a high-quality U or folding lock.
  • Size matters. Smaller U-locks are harder to break.
  • Don’t just lock the wheel to the rack. That leaves the rest of the bike vulnerable. Lock both the wheel and the frame to the bike rack.
  • Don’t leave your bike out overnight, or in places where it looks like you’ll be gone for a while. Whenever possible, take your bike inside with you.
  • If locking your bike to a pole or parking meter, make sure that it’s firmly screwed in. Try to only use bike racks in busy areas and take any bags or lights with you. Vancouver police recommend avoiding poles and parking meters altogether because bolts can be removed, and the heads of the parking meters come off easily.
  • Consider switching out quick release components on seats and wheels for bolts.

— with files from Mike Howell and Jessica Kerr

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