Bike Theft in Toronto
The Toronto Sun has dug up the perennial "bike theft is rampant" story. The reporter, Brett, did some quote digging at the Community Bicycle Network where mechanic Dave confirmed that theft is a "really big problem" (CBN actually refurbishes used bikes but only accepts donations to help reduce the chances of getting stolen bikes). Sean Wheldrake of the City's Bicycle Promotions office counters this perception of an epidemic with the fact that though bike theft may be in the range of 12,000 per year, it is still far less than the million cyclists that live in Toronto. Toronto's not even in the top 10 of North American cities in terms of bike theft.
The juiciest quotes, however, go to Igor Kenk, who runs a little bike shop (or "chop shop" depending on who's perspective) down at the base of Trinity Bellwoods. A very common rumour is that he is a major buyer of stolen bikes. But could all these rumours be wrong? Is Igor being discriminated against because he's a bit messy? I don't know for sure, but I do have stories, some from friends with personal experiences. One friend's bike was stolen from in front of her apartment on Queen West and she immediately went down to Igor's and found it inside his little hole in the wall, mere hours after its theft. She reported to me that Igor gave it up without protest.
"I'm a thief, I'm the darkest nightmare in the western hemisphere," says Kenk, again sarcastically, poking fun at his own dubious reputation.
The truth is -- and Kenk acknowledges this -- some of the bikes piled up in his backyard and in his store are most likely stolen. Some, not all. The same thing would be true for every pawn shop in the city, he says.
But according to both Kenk and Richard Mucha, the city's manager of licensing, Kenk is operating legally and doing everything by the book.
Kenk keeps the city-issued registry book -- second-hand shop owners must fill it in every time somebody sells them a used item -- near the door of his shop when he's working, and says he always asks for two pieces of ID from would-be sellers. Any information about the bike, including its serial number and physical description, is logged, along with the seller's information. The information is relayed to police frequently, Kenk says.
Just perhaps with every bike that the cops track down to Igor's shop and he has to give up there are a few more stolen bikes whose owners have no idea of how to recover or never even registered in the first place. This is what allows Igor to operate within the limits of the law.