Sheriff’s Office out to put brakes on bicycle thefts
The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office is hoping that residents take advantage of the department’s anti-bicycle theft program, which offers a host of suggestions to help ward off any potential thefts and help bike owners protect their property.
According to CCSO Crime Prevention Specialist Dale Phillips, who created the anti-theft program, one of the most important protection methods is registering your bicycle with the department, in which a paper trail is created to connect you with your bike should it ever get stolen.
Bike owners are asked to bring their bikes by one of the CCSO offices and fill out a form, which records the owner’s contact information along with the serial number on the bike.
Phillips pointed to the large number of bicycles now sitting in the CCSO impound lot that were stolen and recovered by law enforcement, but cannot be returned to their owners because their is no way to verify where it belongs because they are not registered.
“A lot of the time we’re making it too easy for thieves to help themselves,” Phillips said. “We’ve had quite a few thefts this year and we’re trying to get ahead of it.”
Richard Tomaso, of Rich’s Recycled Bikes and More on U.S. 41 in Port Charlotte, said he believes the number of stolen bicycles has increased greatly around the county in recent months, going so far as to call it an “epidemic.”
Tomaso believes the bicycles are being stolen in large quantities and shipped down to the islands, or are being sold to metal buyers or pawnshops for some quick cash.
Although his shop does not buy used bikes from individual sellers, Tomaso said he’s often had people coming into the store trying to convince him to take a used bikes off their hands.
“I think people are scrapping them or it’s an organized ring of people stealing them,” Tomaso added. “People are strapped for cash these days.”
Across the street at the Bicycle Center, which sells new bicycles and bikes on consignment, owner Kim Campanella said the store has taken its own incentive to help customers find their lost or stolen bikes.
Much like the CCSO, each bike sold at the store has its serial number logged into the store database, so if the bike should return to the shop for repair or consignment not in the possession of the original owner, Campanella can contact that person to find out whether it was stolen or simply sold.
Campanella also offered an easy suggestion when it comes to protecting your bike: lock it up. When a new, quality bike can cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, it makes sense to protect that investment, she said.
She added that if someone is trying to sell you a bike for far less than you know it’s worth, or if a serial number is scratched off, it’s likely stolen.
“They’re going to try and steal the bikes that aren’t locked at all,” she said. “Those will be the first target.”
For more information on the CCSO’s anti-bike theft program, call 941-639-2101. Bicycles can be registered at any of the CCSO offices, or with road deputies. The Punta Gorda Police Department offers a bicycle registration program, too. For more information, contact the PGPD at 941-639-4111.