Local law enforcement see rise in bike thefts

BY AMY SKARNULIS | JULY 17, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa City police have received 22 reports of bike thefts in the first two weeks of July, and surrounding law-enforcement agencies are seeing similar trends.

Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton said there is not necessarily a spike in thefts, but she released the number to give the community an idea of how frequent bike theft is in Iowa City.

"We've always had a lot of [thefts], it's always an issue, and it's always been an issue," she said. "It just shows what an issue it is."

She was unable to provide figures for the number of reported bikes stolen for all of 2012 on Monday.

Brotherton said there are more thefts in the summer months simply because there are more people riding their bikes during the warmer weather. There are also more people walking around who are more likely to commit theft, she said.

Yet the number of bikes reported stolen doesn't decrease once the weather gets cooler.

"We'll see more of them when people come back [in the fall] because our population goes up and a lot of people do not lock their bikes up," she said.

According to a Johnson County Sheriff's complaint, Nadjib Bourahla and Jaylin Richards were released from jail on July 9 after being charged with fifth-degree theft. They were later allegedly seen by Bio Life's security camera just a few blocks away stealing bikes.

Workers at Geoff's Bike and Ski, 816 S. Gilbert St., have noticed more people coming into the store because of stolen bikes.

"Slightly more than the average [number] of customers are looking to replace bikes," sales associate Aaron Robnett said.

He said he recommends a U-shaped lock to customers who plan to lock their bike up outside apartment buildings or at public places.

"They would need an electric saw to cut through that lock," he said.

Several local police departments have noticed an increase in bike thefts during the summer months.

The Cedar Rapids police have seen an increase of 27 bike thefts from 2011 to 2012. Cedar Rapids police Sgt. Cristy Hamblin said 101 bikes have been reported stolen this year.

"That is significant given the time frame," she said.

Coralville police have seen more bike thefts in the summer months as well, but Coralville has fewer thefts than Iowa City because there are fewer people riding bikes, Coralville Police Chief Barry Bedford said.

"People [in Coralville] bring their bikes into their homes and apartments instead of locking them up outside their building [like they do in Iowa City]," he said.

Coralville has reported five thefts so far in 2012, but only one was reported in April and the rest at the end of June. In 2011, Coralville had 13 bikes stolen, and most of them were reported in the late summer or early fall, Bedford said.

Both Iowa City and Coralville use a free registration system for bikes so they can be more easily identified in case of theft.

Brotherton said in Iowa City bike owners can come to the front desk of the Police Department with their bike's serial number, and police will give the owners stickers with registration numbers.

"Unfortunately, people don't register," Brotherton said. "We get a lot of recovered bikes, but when they made their theft report, they didn't have the number, and we can't remember the description months later [if it is found]."

She said even if the person who steals the bike removes the sticker, the registration number is still in a database, and police will be able to recover the bike if it is found.

Iowa City resident Alan High did not register his bike with the police and did not learn about the option until after his bike was stolen two weeks ago.

"Unfortunately, I had the bike lock with me," he said. "It was taken off my back porch while I was at the Farmer's Market."

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