The Life and Time of Bike Crime in Venice Beach

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Officer TK Kim and Watch Commander Scotty Stevens of Pacific Division’s PCU.

by Melanie Camp.

While bicycle thefts are down thirty percent compared to this time last year, Pacific Division Watch Commander Scotty Stevens told Yo! Venice he’s been watching those numbers creep up over the last couple of weeks and warns, unless people take precautions, we can expect bike crimes to increase as Summer heats up.

“You’ll probably see it, maybe not at the levels it was last year, but heading that direction,” Stevens said, explaining that as more people spend time out and about on their bikes over Summer, there will most likely be an increase in the levels of stolen bikes.

Stevens attributes the decrease over the past several months to work he and the now disbanded Pacific Division Parol Compliance Unit (PCU) did to clean out homeless encampments in the Ballona Wetlands. “There’s just no place to hide them now,” said Stevens.

In February last year Yo! Venice followed Stevens into the Wetlands and witnessed encampments where piles of bicycles and bicycle parts lay all around. Invisible to passing commuters and patrol cars, the tangle of tent cities strewn throughout the Ballona Wetlands provided a myriad of hiding places for stolen bicycles.

3. Bike Thefts
Canine Kenny told Yo! Venice the bikes at his camp were left by others.

At the time, one of Steven’s Officers David Navas explained the bikes Yo! Venice could see were most likely stolen, “that’s what they do, take them apart, sell them, and that’s how they get money for their drugs.” One of the homeless campers, Canine Kenny (who has since gone to jail) had a different explanation. He said people brought the bikes to him to fix, “they think for some odd reason, ‘oh anytime I get a flat, or anytime I need a wrench’ it’s like dude, no man, you can’t just leave it here. But they don’t listen they just leave it here anyway.”

There are now fewer camps in the Wetlands and bike crimes are down, and Stevens believes the two are no doubt related. “I think it’s harder to hide them here, now, out in the open than it was when so many were in the wetlands,” he said.

It took PCU seven long months to reduce homeless encampments the Wetlands. “That was a prolonged effort, at some points we were bringing in fifty bikes at a time,” said Stevens. Some of those bicycles are still at Pacific Division station in Culver City, and due to the sheer number of stolen bikes, some had to be shipped off to Valley Traffic Division. So, it’s likely, if you had your bike stolen in Venice sometime over the past 18 months it’s out in the Valley, and you can call Pacific Division to arrange a reunion.

1. Bike Thefts
Venice local Henry Hereford plans to keep his bike close over summer.

There are steps you can take to make it easier to get your bike back if it gets stolen. Registering your bicycle is one way, however, sometimes thieves will remove a serial number when they take a bike, so Stevens had a good tip, “put a number or mark that only you know somewhere no one would think to look. Like your birthdate on the inside of the wheel or under the seat.” Anything you can do to help identify your bicycle may help you get it back faster.

Often theft is a crime of opportunity.

“We have some bikes worth four thousand dollars sitting at the station. Sometimes, they get stolen because people forget to lock them up. You wouldn’t leave a four thousand dollar piece of jewelry laying out on the sidewalk, so why would you do that with your bike,” said Stevens.

While you may think a lock is a good safeguard, Stevens warns he’s seen videos that prove inadequate locks are useless. “We’ve seen videos of some people getting their bike’s stolen and these guys are good at what they do. They walk up to a lock and snap to open in a matter of ten seconds and then your bike is gone. They’re that good at it,” said Stevens.

To prevent bike crime this summer get a good lock, register your bicycle, and if you’ve had your bike stolen from Venice anytime in the past couple of years; you may just find it is out at Valley Traffic Division waiting for you to come pick it up.

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