An imprisoned bike thief offered secret techniques used by crooks to take some of the thousands of bikes stolen in the Washington, D.C., region each year.
The Arlington man spoke with the News4 I-Team under the assurance of anonymity. He also detailed the type of bicycle most targeted by thieves and the challenge owners face trying to recover their property.
The bike thief, who is serving a 12-year sentence at a state prison near Charlottesville, Virginia, said he and other thieves targeted apartment complexes and condominiums. Bikes are less likely to be secured with locks when placed inside apartment complex gates, he said, and few bystanders would notice a thief in communal living spaces, such as an apartment complex.
“You can live in an apartment complex for years and still not know your neighbors,” he said.
He and other crooks would repeatedly strike apartment complexes in which entry was possible through a garage gate or door, he said.
The thief said he would frequently strike on weekdays during early morning hours, just after sunrise. Doing so would reduce the number of potential witnesses, he said.
“On weekends, people would get up early and walk their dogs,” he said.
On weekdays there were fewer people near the sidewalks and garages, he said.
Bike thieves quickly flip the stolen property, the thief said. The bikes change hands within minutes, often for a fraction of the actual value, he said.
“A $1,200 bike might get $300 (in return),” he said. “Most of the bikes were about four years old. Name brands like Cannondales, Fujis and Giants.”
Though the use of bike locks is common, the thief said some locks are particularly vulnerable.
“Buy more than one lock,” he said. “If you are going to spend $1,500 or $2,000 on your bike, don’t be cheap on your security.”
He recommends bike owners use two or three “U-Lock” style locks to best deter crooks.
Last year, more than 400 bikes were stolen from Metro stations. There were 1,060 bike thefts in the rest of D.C., a recent investigation by the I-Team revealed. An undercover camera investigation by the I-Team revealed how quickly thieves strike and how quickly the stolen merchandise is handed off or sold to others. In multiple cases, the thefts or exchanges occurred within minutes of a bike being placed on a bike rack.
The bike thief who agreed to speak with the I-Team from his prison said,
“You sell them on the street,” the bike thief said. “They’re hot.”
Wondering how common bike thefts are across the nation? The FBI says 194,549 bikes were stolen in 2012, the last year for which data is available. Click here to see that in context of other crimes.
Top 10 Metro Stations for Bike Theft, 2013
- Vienna, 16
- College Park, 15
- Brookland, 10
- West Falls Church, 9
- Franconia – Springfield, 8
- Prince George’s Plaza, 7
- Takoma, 7
- West Hyattsville, 7
- Friendship Heights, 6
- Huntington, 6
- Silver Spring, 6
Top 10 Metro Stations for Bike Theft, 2014
- West Hyattsville, 11
- Medical Center, 7
- Shady Grove, 7
- Brookland, 6
- Braddock Road, 6
- Dupont Circle, 6
- College Park, 4
- Friendship Heights, 4
- Silver Spring, 4
- Tenleytown, 4