Anyone with the NextDoor app has seen the posts.
“Someone stole my bike, again.”
Denver saw a record-breaking rise in bike thefts in 2020, and the issue continues to be hotly debated, with victims becoming more and more frustrated.
“Biking has become, for some people, a part of who they are,” said Zeke Anouna, who had his bike stolen several weeks ago. “Biking has become their passion, and these bikes are so expensive these days. It’s pretty devastating to lose it.”
According to city data, 571 bikes have been stolen as of May 31. The highest hit areas are Five Points, with 62 reported bikes, Union Station, Capitol Hill and Speer. As the summer months roll through, residents can expect that number to soar.
Denver Police spokesperson Jay Casillas said during the warmer months, “more people are out and about with their bikes and garage doors are left open” which can lead to “bad people” taking bikes that are out in plain sight.
The trend is cyclical. Going back to 2016, bike thefts peak in July, August and September and, of course, decrease during the colder months.
By this time last year, 643 bikes were taken. Specifically during the summer of 2020 (between June and September), 964 bikes were reported stolen. Last year was an outlier, in every sense of the word. But bike thefts have risen in the city by 49 percent since 2017.
Bryan Hance is the co-founder of Bike Index, a nonprofit bicycle registration service used by the biking community across the country. He said bike theft has increased significantly throughout the pandemic, but theft was a problem before COVID.
Hance blames it on three factors, including the rise in bike prices, which on average can cost $4,000; bike ridership increasing; and the ease of selling products online via apps such as OfferUp.
“You can rob someone at 9 a.m., put it on an online app at 9:30, and have it bought before 10, all before the victim is aware,” Hance said.
Will I get my bike back?
Maybe. In Anouna’s case, yes.
Anouna, a 33-year-old tech consultant, said his bike was stolen about five weeks ago from his Washington Park home, after thieves scaled his six foot-fence and broke into his garage.
Besides his turquoise Yeti SB95, which he said costs around $5,000, a cooler, a weed whacker, the spare keys to his truck and his garage door opener were also stolen.
“I wasn’t being as smart as I could’ve been,” Anouna said. “I could have had the bike locked up, but I figured with a locked gate and a door to the garage, it wasn’t likely that I’d have unwelcome visitors.”
Anouna filed a report and had previously registered his bike with DPD.
On Wednesday, police called Anouna with good news. They found his bike, though not the other stolen items.
Casillas said registering a bike with the police is the number one way to ensure that a bike is returned if stolen. Hance echoed the sentiment and suggested registering the bike with as many services as possible.
Besides registering, Casillas and Hance add that bikes should be secured with a quality lock, and owners take multiple pictures with their bikes for evidence and keep the serial numbers close at hand.
“Follow the safety tips,” Casillas said. “Those aren’t 100% either, but if your bike does get stolen, if you have taken those steps to document your bike, there’s a higher probability that you will get your bike back.”
Hance said victims should also post their bikes on apps such as NextDoor and Facebook groups, including Denver Stolen Bikes, which has over 4,400 members. He adds that most bikes are returned through efforts by the bike community.
“We knew long ago that the people who are most likely to recover a bike are regular people,” Hance said. “Sometimes it is left to the community.”
But Casillas advises against approaching a suspected thief.
“Always err on the side of caution,” Casillas said. “Don’t put yourself in any danger.”
Anouna is grateful that his bike was recovered and adds that registering his bike was the main reason it was found.
But Anouna said he has spent thousands of dollars on security equipment, and through video he can see that thieves continue to return to his home.
He feels that maybe something more can be done, like an increase in police presence.
Casillas said there isn’t a specific task force for bike theft but adds that there are officers who will investigate any tips and who will look into any suspicious-looking bikes.
But again, Casillas said, if the bike isn’t registered or reported stolen, there’s no way to recover the bike.
In the meantime, Anouna is ready to get his bike back and hopes the security systems in play will deter any future theft.
“I’m sure (police) have priorities, and I’m not one to say that they’re prioritizing wrong, but this is a huge problem,” Anouna said. “The bike is replaceable…. But the stress of thinking ‘when are they going to come back’ is the larger problem. I think if cops understood that then maybe it would be more of a priority.”