It’s not the type of phone call Kelly Goldbeck necessarily wants to receive.
But on a regular basis, the owner of Kgeez Cycle on Burnside Road receives a phone call from a customer or someone in the scooter community, informing him that their scooter or electric bike has been stolen.
“They are very upset. It’s a lot of money for them and then they find they are violated,” said Goldbeck, who reports the thefts to Victoria police.
“A lot of the customers I have, they saved a lot of money. They worked really hard to get a scooter and sometimes this is all they have. Then they get it swiped from them and it causes a lot of grief.”
The theft of scooters and electric bikes from city streets is a growing trend that Victoria police Sgt. Barry Cockle started to notice during the last two to three years. A rise in popularity of scooters and electric bikes has made them a hot commodity on the Island, Cockle explained, and has now become one of the biggest problems the police are trying to address.
On average, police receive eight to nine reports a week about stolen scooters and various types of electric bikes.
The scooters and electric bikes, which can range in price from $1,500 to $4,000, are typically swiped from various locations throughout Greater Victoria, such as underground parkades, garages, backyards, or anywhere they aren’t secure.
Often they end up in chop shops, where they’re dismantled for their parts or re-painted to sell on the street for a few hundred dollars.
Cockle believes there’s a specific group of people who are swiping the scooters and electric bikes, noting officers have noticed an increase in thefts when certain offenders are released from jail. Some of the scooters have been found in the shelter areas or camps along the Galloping Goose Trail. Others are found inside apartments of known property offenders.
On one occasion, Cockle found three scooters being painted inside an apartment.
“They stripped them apart, filed off the serial numbers and started painting all the components to a new colour,” said Cockle. “The smell of gasoline and paint within the apartment was absolutely disgusting, but nobody called us. If you are seeing that sort of stuff, then we want to hear from you for sure.”
Cockle and Goldbeck talk at least once a week about scooters that have been stolen and ways to prevent further thefts from occurring.
All of the scooters have a steering lock, explained Goldbeck, but that can be broken when used with enough force. Some thieves will pull up in a truck with three guys and throw the bikes in the box, even if the alarm is going off. Others carry bolt cutters or torches in their backpack to cut through the locks.
In an effort to deter thieves, Goldbeck has been integrating security measures such as alarm systems or locks with his scooters. Part of the problem, he said, is that a lot of customers get complacent when it comes to making sure their scooter is secure.
“They’ll go into a store and think I’ll only be in there for 10 minutes and don’t take the time to put the lock on and come back out and their scooter is gone…if you have a scooter or electric bike, tie them to something,” said Goldbeck, noting his customers range in age from 16 to 95.
“I gave him (the 95-year-old man) his freedom back. He was in a walker and to walk half a block would take half a day. He got on this and I’ve never seen a smile so big in my life.”
After noticing a growing trend in bike thefts during the last few years, Victoria police implemented a registry to help reunite found or seized bikes with their rightful owners. Cyclists fill out a form with their contact information, bike serial number and description, making it easier for officers to establish that it’s stolen when checking a person riding it without permission.
Owners of scooters and electric bikes are encouraged to use the registry as well.
For more information visit vicpd.ca/bike-registry.