John D. Crow, a vacation-rental operator, has had nine bikes stolen over the past five-plus years that he has written off as a business expense. Crow thinks he has a fix on the “process” involved and a good idea of what could be done to resolve the issue.
“I think many problems would be solved if the City would just enforce trash can scavenging because criminals are hiding behind that,” said Crow, who provides bikes for his rental clients. “Thieves are stealing out of the City’s blue recycling cans, which is illegal.”
Crow caught a person recently picking through designated blue recycling bins wearing a miner’s light at 4 a.m. without identification.
“It’s a total cover,” claimed Crow of can scavenging he considers a deliberate ruse. “Do we enforce it? Not at all. If you were to say no to trash scavenging, you would be cutting off a viable way for people to continue stealing bikes.”
Crow knows of another unusual bike-theft incident involving a woman who had her bike locked up at the corner of Cass Street and Garnet Avenue. “She came to unlock it and someone had put another coil lock on it,” he said. “She Ubers home. When she came back hours later they (thieves) had stolen it. They had locked that bike up to come back and steal it.”
Bill Zent, a community activist working toward stricter electric-scooter regulation, concurred with Crow. “There is a huge problem still with bike theft and the police have their hands tied,” concluded Zent, citing two recent examples.
“I’m on Grand Avenue and a homeless guy walks past me with two expensive road bikes and his backpack. I decided to follow him … at Kendall he stopped and got a second backpack out from under the shrubs. … Then he crossed the street and went down the alley. … I flagged a patrol car down. … the officer said there is nothing he can do. The owners would have had to file a report with serial numbers. … So the guy walks with the bikes.”
Added Zent, “A friend of mine, a bartender at the Tavern, recently went to get her nails done. She locked her bike out front. It was gone and the lock was left behind in minutes. The common thread I see is it is all daylight theft.”
Of the solution, Zent concluded, “We need a strong and mandatory bike-license program. When I grew up, you had to have the bright yellow license band on the bike and the bike shops had stamped those numbers on the back of the frame. If that or some version of it was in place, the police could check ownership very fast on a stop.”
“Every year in San Diego, nearly 3,000 bikes are stolen. Pacific Beach is one of the hardest-hit communities for stolen bikes,” pointed out Marcella Teran, Pacific Beach, and Mission Beach Neighborhood Watch coordinator. “The Bait Bike Program is one of the most important police programs for Pacific Beach. Because it is so easy and fast for thieves to steal a bike even in broad daylight, it is an attractive crime for them to make quick money for usually drugs and alcohol.”
Added Teran, “I have seen bike chops at the PB Library Park in the middle of the day, and under a park light at night. Many of these criminals are not afraid of being caught. So we need the police to find ways to catch them and get them off the streets in our neighborhoods.”
Bait bikes have a GPS device with which police can track the theft happening in real-time and apprehend the criminal. Stealing an SDPD Bait Bike is a felony under state law, given the bikes are worth more than $950, the felony threshold.
Henish Pulickal, a Pacific Beach Planning Group member speaking for himself, had two mountain bikes stolen from a secured parking garage. Video revealed two women used a mini torch and bolt cutters to gain entry. Pulickal believes the bait bike program needs to be fine-tuned.
“I've seen the bait bikes and they are pretty recognizable,” he said. “They need to use different bikes that aren't as obvious.”
Nonetheless, the bait-bike program is a good start and a step in the right direction concluded Teran.
“This program is so important to our community, that the Pacific Beach Town Council is supporting the program this year,” Teran said. “They hope to continue to support it each year, due to its importance for our residents. The police have their hands tied catching and having criminals put in jail. This program is one that can truly help the police — and us.”