Dude, Where’s My Bike?

Bike theft is the most common crime in Europe, with the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Japan and Sweden having its highest rates. Over 17, 000 bikes were reported as stolen to insurance companies in Finland last year. This is approximately 6,000 more than in 2012. Still, the police do not believe bicycle thefts to be associated with organised crime.

In English  | 

Text Margarita Khartanovich

Kuvat Minna Koivunen

“The biggest problem is the people who steal the bikes in order to sell them”, says Tiina, a student at the University of Applied Sciences in Oulu and continues: “Why don’t the police try to catch them? It is clearly an organized crime!”

Tiina’s bike was stolen from the yard of her own house (Puolivälinkangas) at night. It was locked.

“I was so sad because I just fixed it by myself and painted it yellow. Also, I had to go to the dentist that morning, so I had to leave in a hurry.”

“My bike was stolen from the yard of my building too”, explains Atte Koskela, an economics student at the University of Oulu.

“It was chained to a pole! I was very surprised as it had been at that same spot earlier.”

Koskela contacted the police and the thief was caught through other crimes.

“They found pictures of my bike in his cellphone but, unfortunately, the bike had been already sold. The thief has many crimes on him so I don’t believe I’m getting any compensation any time soon.”

Bicycle Black Market

According to Konsta Korhonen, Senior Detective Superintendent at Oulu Police Department, 1700 bikes have been reported stolen in the last 12 months (as for the period 1.9.2014 –31.8.2015). Investigators specializing in bike thefts are working at those cases but only 6–7% of bikes (111 items) have been returned to the original owners.

“It is so frustrating”, admits Tiina. “Police should really do something about it! I don’t want to buy an expensive bike because someone is going to steal it anyway.”

Kaleva reported some months ago that a fencer (person who buys stolen bikes and later sells them) was convicted. There are unfortunately several others like him but Oulu Police are targeting them. Apart from fencers, those involved in narcotics steal bikes to get enough cash to keep up with their habit. Nowadays it is just too easy to traffic stolen bikes by simply selling them online.

“My bike is somewhere now waiting to be sold. I looked for it in front of the bars, in the woods nearby and also on the Internet. Someone might have bought it already as no one cares whether it is a stolen bike. They just want a new bike at a cheap price”, says Tiina.

Atte Koskela confirms that those who steal locked bikes are usually those who do it regularly and sell them through websites like Tori.fi. They find buyers by contacting those who post bike purchase requests.

The riskiest place to leave your bike in Oulu is the city centre (around Rotuaari), according to Oulu Police.

Some bikes get stolen for temporary personal need, such as for returning home after a night out. The thieves abandon them later outdoors or by roadsides. In this case, Facebook groups like “Varastetut pyörat/Stolen Bikes Oulu” might be of some help. You can add a picture of your stolen bike there and see what happens.

“By using the connectivity of Facebook and the power of information we can cripple this cowardly act, this lucrative underground business”, claim the founders of the group.

Tiina says that quite many people find their bikes this way. The group’s active members take care of the bikes left in the woods, for example, and try to reach their owners.

It Can Happen to Anyone

The riskiest place to leave your bike in Oulu is the city centre (around Rotuaari), according to Oulu Police.

Atte Koskela lists Toppila and Kaukovainio as well. As for a type of a bike, generally the most popular brands, like Jopo, and bicycles worth less than one thousand euros get thieves’ attention. This is basically the majority of the bikes in Oulu. So, what can you do to protect your property?

“People should photograph their bikes and have serial numbers written down”, recommends Konsta Korhonen.

“Only then it is possible for the police to reliably return the bike even though components have been switched and/or the identity of the bike altered.”

In addition, always fasten it from the frame to a fixed object, such as a stand or pole.

“You need a strong U-lock and also don’t keep new and expensive bikes outside. Now I keep my new bike inside”, tells Atte Koskela.

And remember – a bicycle is a property; for many of us it is also a dear friend. Keep it in mind next time you buy someone’s stolen bike. If you refuse to purchase a bike without documents and serial number, you will help change the situation. Besides if found both the seller and the buyer will be fined, and depending on the circumstance both risk getting a criminal record and a possible jail sentence.

Published 11.11.2015 in 9/2015

Margarita Khartanovich

UUNI Editor, Master’s degree in Journalism (University of Tampere). Interested in politics, history, music, social issues and education. Twitter: @marthatcher

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