Police believe highly organised thieves are stealing expensive bicycles in an emerging crime trend fuelled by the rising popularity of cycling in WA.
Metropolitan police have been tracking stolen bicycles through pawn shops and online classified sites such as eBay and Gumtree.
They have recovered 80 bikes worth up to $130,000 since March 1 and they believe more valuable bicycles are being specifically targeted before being stripped and sold separately as frames and components across Australia.
The projected value of stolen bikes in WA alone for this year2012, based on known thefts and data from insurance companies, could reach $1.3 million and more than $6million across Australia.
East metropolitan crime prevention unit Sgt Garry Tuffin said many of the recovered bikes were taken during burglaries.
Police investigations have involved detectives’ offices across Perth and revealed other items that were stolen, identities of the people who pawned the bikes, their associates and potential links to other crimes across the metropolitan area.
“We check them every single day,” Sgt Tuffin said. “We do a search on our systems for all pawnbrokers to see if any of the bikes match those that have been stolen. We check all the websites like eBay and Gumtree.
“Our biggest drawback is people who report their bikes stolen but do not record the serial numbers.”
Police recovered a Pinarello Dogma, worth more than $9000, that was stolen while its owner was having a coffee a short distance away.
The owner, who did not want to be identified, said the bike was within sight but had vanished when he turned briefly as he stood up to leave.
“We were stunned how quickly it went,” he said. “I figured it was gone for good.”
Police later found the Pinarello had been sold to a pawn shop for about $300 and have since returned the bike to its owner.
“I won’t sit at a cafe more than about two feet from it now,” he said.
Sgt Tuffin urged bike owners to record serial numbers, invest in quality locks and ensure their bikes were secured.