How they work
Most bicycles are stolen from places owners assume are safe. Experienced thieves can take even locked bikes in about 10-20 seconds. Bolt cutters will cut most chains and cables, and U-style locks are broken by inserting scissors-style car jack inside the U and cranking.
Who the thieves are
Very little evidence exists about the thieves themselves. Most information comes from journalists and is at best anecdotal. Nevertheless, Centric Media has formulated theories based on these journalists’ articles and interviews with law enforcement officials.
Within the drug trade, stolen bicycles are so common they can almost be used as currency. On the streets, the value of a stolen bicycle is approximately 5-10% of the bicycle’s original retail value, with an inverse relationship between value and percentage worth on the street. According to numerous interviews with industry insiders, the percentage goes up as the value goes down; a bicycle that sells for $200 new will sell for $20 on the street when stolen, and a new $2500 chromealloy machine will sell for as low as $125.
In most U.S. cities, bicycle-theft rings are organized to steal bikes and sell them on the street, at flea markets, and to receivers of stolen goods, i.e. fences.4
Rumors and assumptions are more common than facts in reports on where stolen bicycles are disposed of. Many eventually end up in police property rooms, without being returned to their owners. There is some evidence, however, about what happens to the others.
Reliable sources indicate that substantial numbers of stolen bicycles are exported on barges through the Port of Miami.5 Customs officials have also noted shipments of both bicycles and bicycle parts through New Jersey.6 General rumors abound that many bicycles are taken into Mexico and Southeast Asia.