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Someone Make Off With Your Bike? You're Not the Only One

This Bike-to-Work Day consider the plight of Coronado, where residents – even a former mayor and the city manager – happily jump on two wheels for many tasks, but find that thieves are always on the lookout for their rides.

You don't have to tell Coronadans twice to bike to work or school or the beach or the ... well, you get it.

So for Friday – a day when bike riding will be celebrated and rewarded in various spots throughout the county – odds are many folks in town are already taking to their two-wheeled rides.

Trouble is, they're also losing their bikes while doing it. Whether it's students or exercisers or even prominent locals, many fall victim to bicycle theft.

Take City Manager Blair King. He drove his car into his garage a couple months ago and noticed something different. 

“I couldn't put my finger on it, but then I realized my bike was missing,” he said.

This was the third bike stolen from the King household. Earlier, two other bikes went missing from his back patio; the police found one of them. 

“It had masking tape around the handlebars, so it was easy to spot,” he said. “Still (officers) did an excellent job.”

Former Mayor Tom Smisek knows his pain. Last summer his new Schwinn, a birthday present from his wife, was snatched while he was at a Rotary Club luncheon. He had locked it to a bike rack on Orange Avenue. 

“I did everything right,” he said. 

King, on the other hand admits to having had a laissez-faire attitude. His daughters and their friends often left their bikes at each others' homes without securing them.

“Now we’re on total lockdown,” he said. 

King and Smisek are not alone. Stolen bikes are “probably the most common type of theft in Coronado,” Police Chief Lou Scanlon said.

And sometimes it's easy pickings in town, where victims in many of the reported thefts admit to having left their bikes unlocked.

The misadventure is so common, NPR reported that the FBI estimates citizens lose up to $350 million a year when bicycles are stolen. One intrepid victim was so angered by his loss, he decided to catch a bike thief on his own, and wrote about his pursuit in Outside magazine.

Few of the culprits are brought to justice, however, and many are part of an active underground economy.

“There are syndicates that specialize in stealing bikes and selling them to sporting goods stores or on Craigslist,” police spokeswoman Lea Corbin said.

“They drive around alleys looking for unlocked garages or bikes sitting out in the yard. Because the crime is so common, prevention is a priority with the department.”

Two years ago, police launched a campaign to get people to join the National Bike Registry, which helps officers locate stolen bicycles, but community response was tepid.

“Not as many people as we would have like joined,” Corbin said.

Locks are also a deterrent, but Smisek aside, many owners don't bother. For instance, in a casual audit of the bike stands at Coronado High School, only 12 of the 72 bikes parked next to the theater had locks. 

Kids are not the only ones who let their guards down about crime. “People feel safe here,” King said. 

Neither he nor the former mayor have replaced the stolen bikes. Smisek, who served as mayor through 2008, is happy tooling around town on his old bike. 

“It’s a crate, but nobody wants to steal it,” he said.

Lhof May 18, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Solutions: Install good quality bicycle racks throughout town. Use good strong bicycle locks (maybe two).
John Hutchinson May 18, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Purchased 5th bike from Hollands last month... all previous WERE locked which would suggest a Professional Bike Theft operation with high-tech equipment & low profile transport vehicles

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