In the time it took to purchase a sandwich from a shop in downtown Boulder, Nancy Trigg’s bike was cut from its lock and stolen.
The Boulder resident ultimately found the bicycle at an alleged chop shop and was able to retrieve it with the help of the Boulder Police Department. It wasn’t registered, Trigg said, but she had photographs of a large dent on the bicycle that helped confirm it was hers. She’s since placed a sticker reading “Please don’t steal my bicycle. Thanks.” over the dent.
While bicycle theft is not a new phenomenon, Trigg noted that something about it feels different.
“What’s different now is it’s blatant,” she said.
Indeed, bicycle theft is on the rise across Boulder County. Both Boulder and Longmont reported an increase in the past year. In Boulder, more than 1,000 bicycles valued at about $1.9 million have been stolen in 2020 from individuals and bicycle shops. In years past, the city reported an average of 700 bikes stolen annually.
Travel east to Longmont, and the story is similar. According to Longmont Police Sgt. Matt Cage, 211 bicycles have been reported stolen this year, an almost 10% increase from the year prior.
“Most property crimes are up all across the state, including Longmont,” Cage wrote in an email.
Although people self-report the value of their bike when it’s stolen, the Boulder Police Department said the average value of each stolen bicycle is more than $1,000. The figures extend through early December.
“Stolen bicycles are a chronic problem here in the city of Boulder,” Boulder Police Strategic Data and Policy Advisor Beth Christenson said in a Dec. 10 town hall meeting.
As such, the department has begun a targeted effort to combat the problem by teaming up with Bike Index, a nonprofit that helps people register their bicycles. The free service helps law enforcement locate and contact people who own a stolen bike that’s found.
“If your bike is stolen and you have registered it and it is found outside the jurisdiction, other agencies can quickly find where the bike is from and who it is registered to,” Christenson said.
Bryan Hance, co-founder of Bike Index, said he helped start the nonprofit organization when he realized that it made sense to have a central place for bike shops and cyclists to go to register bikes and search for stolen ones.
Marketplace in August reported that the disrupted supply chain led to a bicycle shortage. Hance referenced that shortage and other impacts of the coronavirus as some of the reasons for the rise in theft.
“It’s been a really busy year for bike thieves,” he said.
People often send the Boulder Police Department photos and videos of suspected bicycle chop shops, or places where stolen bikes are taken apart so parts can be sold or used on other stolen bikes. However, spokesperson Dionne Waugh said it’s difficult to