Have you had a bike stolen? Join the club

U-locks are the most-recommended lock, as they have the thickest and strongest construction and are the most difficult to cut through. Courtesy photo

Though rates have gone down, bike theft is still an issue in Seal Beach.

“I was absolutely dumbfounded.” Karen Hadley parked her bike outside of Pavilions on a recent Tuesday for a quick 10-minute grocery run. She tucked it away, locked it up, and went about her business, but when she came back, her bike was gone. “I’ve been here since 1953 and have only had my bike stolen once before.”

Bike theft is not uncommon in cities and towns of all sizes, and Seal Beach is no exception. According to crime analysts at the Seal Beach Police Department, 2015 had reports of 60 bike thefts and 2016 had 57 reported, which is a 5 percent reduction. Since 2013, however, there has been a statewide increase in theft-related crimes. The records of the California Department of Justice show that in California nearly 36,554 bikes were reported stolen in 2015, making up 5.6 percent of all larceny-theft, a 10.5 percent increase from numbers in 2014.

“It is impossible to know how many bike thefts go unreported,” says Sgt. Michael Henderson of the Seal Beach Police Department. “We encourage everyone who is a victim to report the crime to us so that we can properly investigate and track the crimes that occur.”

Per Henderson, beach areas like Seal Beach are prone to bike theft as it is a common form of transportation. “People tend to become complacent because of the fun and easygoing atmosphere at the beach,” Henderson said. “In Seal Beach, we see the greatest number of bike thefts occurring in and around the Old Town area. Additionally, there is a concentration of bike thefts near the Montecito Apartments.”

A sturdy lock is the first line of defense against potential bike thieves. “We recommend U-locks,” says Daniel Cope of Main Street Cyclery. “They’re your best bet because it’s a really solid rod. Cable locks can be cut pretty easily with a pair of snips or bolt cutters, but the heavy U-locks would need an actual power tool to cut through. Chain locks are probably your next best option since they’ve got thick chain links and are still going to be pretty hard to cut through.”

Buying the right lock isn’t the only step. Locking the bike the correct way is also crucial. If it is locked improperly or too casually, the thief can get away with most of your bike by detaching the wheel or even just sliding it off the post or stand it’s attached to.

“When you lock up your bike, you want to go through the frame first, because that’s the most expensive part of your bike,” says Cope. “Another way to go is a 2-lock setup that has a cable lock as well as a U-lock, which can secure the front wheel, too. You can also get locking skewers for your wheels, which mean you’d have to completely flip the bike over to get the wheel off. However, with a U-lock you can usually go around the seat tube on the frame and through the rear wheel at the same time, which is a really secure way to go.” The SBPD also advises locking bikes to a solid metal object. “Lock your bike when you are at home,” says Henderson. “Bike thieves will steal bikes right off the front porch or out of an open garage during the day.”

“Bike thieves look for unsecured or poorly secured bikes. Investing in a quality lock and taking the time to properly secure the bike will make it less attractive to a potential thief,” says Henderson. The Police Department also advises all bike owners to register their bicycles, which can be done through the city website at http://sealbeachca.prod.synoptek.com/Departments/Police/Bicycle-Register.

When it comes to protecting your bike, it would appear the main goal is to deter thieves by making the job too difficult or requiring more than a few seconds to complete. If a bike is locked securely, correctly, and carefully, thieves will move on to find easier prey.