The Stolen Bike Business

By Michael Barker

We here in Freo recently and proudly accepted the accolade of being the Artistic Capital of WA.

I suspect we are less anxious to be known as the Stolen Bike Capital of WA as well.

I hasten to add, I’m sure there is absolutely no correlation between artistic endeavour and bicycle theft.

Mind you when you hear tales of bikes stolen from seemingly impregnable locations around Freo, you would be forgiven for thinking some of the thieves having something in common with the great conjurist, Houdini.

It’s hard to get current statistics from WA Police on bike theft generally in WA and the Fremantle area in particular. One is advised, if you contact them, to look on their crime stats page. But they also agree that isn’t terribly helpful as there is no separate category for bikes stolen. Bikes are lumped in with all manner of stolen goods.

You are then advised to make a Freedom of Information request. That, of course, takes time and costs money. In many ways FOI is just a game whereby governments spin out the process of giving you as little as possible in the longest time possible.

Relatively recent accounts from a couple years ago, however, tell us that, over the last number of years, more than 9,000 bikes are reported stolen in WA each year with a 64% increase in stolen bikes over the past 10 years or so.

We don’t have separate stats for the Freo area, but you are left with the impression from conversations with people who have had bikes stolen, and from regular social media posts, that Freo is probably a significant contributor to the stats.

Take this heart rending, very recent social media post.

What posts like this and so many anecdotal accounts of bike thefts around Freo area tell us is that many of the thefts are brazen, professional and targeted. The thieves know what they are after. And they’ll steal not just in the wee hours, but also in broad daylight.

Not all thefts fall into this category however. Some seem to be opportunistic. Often on social media one sees a post showing a photograph of a bike that has been left in a park or some public place, or on the street, seemingly lost. One assumes the owners didn’t just lose them. And one hopes they are reunited with their stolen bikes.

Facebook pages like Freo Massive, Freo Stolen Bikes, and even Gumtree, regularly post information on bikes both stolen and found.

Like this post on Freo Stolen Bikes Facebook page from March just gone concerning a bike left in The Esplanade.

What to do about a lost bike?

The suggestions from the WA Police include registering your bike, especially the serial number of the frame, with Bikelink which is operated by Crime Stoppers. Good advice.

Bikelink is a national initiative that found its way to WA in 2019. One suspects it hasn’t lessened the incidence of bike thefts, but it is believed to assist greatly in identifying your stolen bike when occasionally the Police do come across a cache of them, as they did a few years back in this case.

The City of Freo also give sensible advice about how to lock your bike most effectively.

But unfortunately even the best locks, and the best modes of securing an expensive bike, even a cheap one, are no match for a determined thief. We have even heard of one bike stolen from inside the secure area of a local modern apartment complex, and another from the bike cage within Freo Railway Station.

And then there are the tales of bikes being literally lifted and put on the backs of utes and trucks and spirited away.

I guess we’re all well aware of the risks around Freo. Tim Winton had a bike being stolen from South Beach in his novel Eyrie. When you arrive as a new resident in the Freo area most of us are warned not to leave our bike loose, and to keep our garage doors and side gates closed and locked. We all know cyclist friends who won’t leave their bikes even on the front verandah when visiting, for fear of it being nicked.

So, there you have it.

A perennial problem.

What’s the answer? Is there one?

Not sure.

But do make sure you report the theft to the Police ASAP when it happens.

And get onto the social media sites.

Just hope, despite all the reasons to be forlorn, that Sharna Terase gets her fab YUBA bike back soon.

And also hope that WA Police start keeping proper stats of bike thefts so they can keep the community properly informed about this significant community policing issue.

This article was written by Michael Barker

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