'Meth heads' send bicycle thefts sky high
Police say methamphetamine users' urge to fiddle with bikes satisfies need to keep busy
August 13, 2005
CREDIT: Darren Stone, Times Colonist
Victoria police constable Peter Lane looks over some of the bikes found at a number of 'chop shops' around the city.
Crystal methamphetamine's method of destroying brain cells is well documented.
But police are now coming to a startling conclusion about another side-effect of the drug -- bike thefts are skyrocketing because crystal meth users, or "meth heads," find disassembling bikes and fiddling with bike parts satisfies their need to keep their hands busy while on the drug.
"We've come across lots of sites littered with bikes and bike parts," Const. Peter Lane said.
"They sit in the bush with hundreds of parts just fiddling with them all day."
Crystal meth is a stimulant, but because it destroys brain cells at such a rapid rate, its users are drawn to menial, repetitive activities.
"For some reason, they find fiddling with bike parts satisfies that need for stimulation," Lane said.
The result has been a huge increase in bike thefts, said Lane, who couldn't provide any figures.
The recent discovery of several bicycle "chop shops" hidden in the bushes of Victoria parks has drawn attention to the rise in thefts and its connection to crystal meth.
On Wednesday, police busted a chop shop under the Point Ellice Bridge, where they're regularly called by local businesses who spot people stashing bikes and bike parts.
A massive illegal campsite uncovered in Beacon Hill Park last weekend was littered with bikes and bike parts, while in mid-July, police cleared out a site on the edge of Cecelia Ravine Park that was strewn with bicycles.
Police are still investigating to what extent the bicycles are being reassembled with different parts, painted and sold on the streets for drug money.
Police often find crystal meth users carrying around tools to take apart and reassemble bikes so they can't be identified as stolen.
But going to such lengths often makes a stolen bike stand out even more.
"An officer gets suspicious when he sees a bike with a really expensive frame but rusty parts," Lane said.
It doesn't help them return the property to its original owners, however.
"When they've been taken apart and painted, it's really hard to identify them," Const. Theresa Tuttle said.
With theft rates rising, bicycle owners are struggling to protect their property.
Cycling advocate John Luton, who has lost parts off his bicycle several times, said cyclists need to take measures to protect their bikes, such as locking bikes in visible, high-traffic areas.
"People will grab anything if it's available," said Luton, executive director of Capital Bike and Walk.
He added insurance against bicycle theft is expensive and the deductible is often too high to make it worthwhile.
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PROTECTING YOUR PEDALS- Invest in a good lock- Lock your bike in a visible, high-traffic area- Take advantage of downtown businesses like Chain Chain Chain Bike Check and Cycling Services and Reckless Bike Stores that will store your bike for you while you shop- Engrave bicycle parts with your driver's licence number so police can trace them if your bike is stolen
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2005