Victoria has seen an increase in theft reports of electric bikes (e-bikes) and bicycles of over $5,000 in recent years according to police.
“This is likely due to the increased popularity of e-bikes in general since COVID-19,” said the Victoria Police Department (VicPD) in a statement.
Not-for-profit organization Capital Bike was victim to e-bike theft after its $9,000 Cargo e-bike was stolen this past June.
“We locked it outside of our office and on a good quality bike rack and then we locked up our cargo bike with two, $200 locks and we thought, ‘it’s just overnight it’ll probably be okay because we leave the office at 5 p.m. and we’re back at 8:30 a.m.,” said Capital Bike executive director, Adam Krupper.
However, the next morning the cargo bike was gone. Luckily, the charity’s neighbour had security footage of the bike theft at 5 a.m. on June 20. The video surveillance showed the thief busting through the expensive locks in under five minutes.
After Krupper reported the theft to VicPD, they came down to the office to take a look at the area. Police recommended places to check if it was stolen and then abandoned. Employees at Capital Bike went to check for the stolen e-bike in the suggested areas and around the city, but nothing turned up.
Not only was the bike a costly loss, but a disheartening one. At Capital Bike the cargo e-bike had become a mascot known as “The Whale”.
“If you’re riding it around town, it’s very visible and we use it for all of our pickups,” said Krupper. “To have this iconic bike just boldly stolen outside of our office in the morning on a busy street was remarkable.”
Eventually, a community member called the police and saw the e-bike abandoned in bushes in a park two kilometres away from Capital Bike’s office. Krupper met police at the scene and found the e-bike ravaged of its electric parts that had cost the small charity $3,000. All the electric components, the controllers, the battery, the throttle, the lights, the actual motor itself, and everything else had been stripped off the bike.
“Honestly, we were devastated, because the bike is such an integral part of our operations. As a cycling charity, our mission has been to promote the use of bikes as an alternative to automobiles, losing the vehicle that we use for all of our operations,” said Krupper. “We simply don’t have the financial resources to replace an asset of that value as a little non-profit charity. We don’t just have $10,000 to spend on things like this.”
Capital Bike set up a funding campaign right after they found the e-bike in shambles. Thanks to the broader community, throughout the funding campaign $4,000 was raised. With the funds, the cycling not-for-profit was able to completely repair the cargo e-bike.
“The increase in e-bikes isn’t surprising given their rise in popularity in the past few years,” VicPD told Black Press Media in a statement addressing the e-bike thefts.
Capital Bike added that the price of a good e-bike ranges from $6,00o to $14,000.
Despite reports of e-bike thefts increasing, the number of reports of all bike thefts is decreasing. In 2022, there were 551 bikes were stolen, but from Jan. 1 to Nov. 6 in 2023, only 451 were stolen.
However, according to police, stats regarding bike thefts don’t tell the whole story.
“We are seeing an overall decline in reports of bike theft, but we hear from the community that bike theft is an increasing concern. There is likely an under-reporting of bike theft for several reasons including that people are using apps like 529 Garage or social media (Facebook’s Stolen Bike Avengers page) as tools to locate their bikes rather than reporting it to police.”
VicPD encourages people to report their bikes stolen to us as soon as possible and with as much information as possible including the serial number.
“This increases the likelihood of returning stolen bikes to their owners,” added police. “We return 25 per cent of bikes reported stolen to us.”
On VicPD’s website, there’s a reporting tool for stolen bikes that includes the ability to upload photos and obtain a serial number (https://project529.com/garage).