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Mpls. Police: Hot Summer For Bike Thefts

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(credit: CBS) Liz Collin
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minneapolis Police consider bikes one of the most popular things to steal, but this summer they’ve been especially hot.

In Minneapolis, cops have taken more than 1,100 reports of swiped bikes since the first of the year. They’re not cheap, either. On average, they’re worth more than $600.

At a home on Dupont Avenue South last month, cameras were rolling as a young man opened a backyard fence to check out what was inside a garage in south Minneapolis. Police believe he had every intention of swiping a pricey bike before the homeowner scared him away.

Another Minneapolis woman – who didn’t want to be named – said she isn’t sure if it’s the same guy who got into her garage, but her family is one of 38 in that same part of town who reported missing bikes to Minneapolis Police.

“We had a deadbolt on the side door. We thought that was good enough,” she said.

They are not just bike thefts, but burglaries since the thieves broke in to a garage to get them. It’s something police are seeing much more of. This summer, nearly half of all stolen bikes have been taken the same way.

Cops believe it is part of an organized ring and that arrests could come soon.

Rob Rounds lost his bike in a more public space. In June, just outside the Capella Tower, some guy clipped Rob’s bike lock and rode off on his $700 Marin Muirwooods.

“I wasn’t expecting someone would be walking around downtown with a pair of bolt cutters,” Rounds said. “It was during rush hour and broad daylight.”

These are the stories the Hub Bicycle Co-op has been hearing a lot of lately. They’ve heard from more than 30 people in just the last month, looking to see if their stolen bikes have been sold to the shop.

Ashanti Austin believes the thieves want the expensive parts to sell in whatever they can.

“Somebody who steals a bike actually understands what they’re stealing and why they’re stealing it,” Austin said.

The majority of the people the Hub hears from don’t even bother reporting the crime to police.

“It’s not a priority and it’s also not a sexy crime,” she said.

But Minneapolis Police say they want to know.

John Elder is with the Police Department’s Intellectual Property Initiative.

“These people are victims of crimes. These are our citizens and it’s important we do what we can to help them,” Elder said.

Right now, the department will only recover about half of the bikes they hear about, but your chances of getting it back are much better if you know one important thing: the bike’s serial number.

Flip your bike over and the serial number is usually under the bottom bracket where the two pedal cranks meet. Police say you should write the 10 digits down and put in it some place safe.

The law says any pawn shop or business that buys bikes is required to punch in a detailed description along with those digits into a computer. The program, called The Automated Property System, will catch any bike that’s been reported stolen.

Knowing that number helped reunite WCCO anchor Mike Binkley with his bike earlier this summer. It was stolen on Bike to Work Day. So, when someone went to pawn it, police caught it in the system.

Of the more than 800 pawned in Minnesota in the last month, 20 were ripped off.

Michael Strauss from Uptown Pawn has people bringing in bikes, daily.

“If someone does pawn a bike and it is stolen, we’re the only victim,” Strauss said.

Uptown Pawn won’t take them if a serial number’s been scratched off. The business has to hold the bike for 30 days before they can put it up for sale.

“Of the majority of the items we are buying that I have suspicions would be stolen or not, I would say the majority of the items would be bikes,” Strauss said.

Police also end up storing bikes they find. They think in many cases they’re taken for a joy ride then left behind. There are 2,000 in storage right now in the city garage. Again, you can’t get it back without your serial number or a personal picture.

The city gets rid of them at an auction that happens every six weeks during the warm weather months.

As for Rob and that woman in south Minneapolis, they’re still waiting to see if their code will stop the crime cycle that they’ve been caught up in.

Police told us a U-Lock is best to use on your bike. A cable lock isn’t a good choice. Cops say even if your bike is in your garage, lock it up.

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