Criminal bicycle rackets: Ride out the storm

2015-06-24 10:18
Store manager of Hattons Cycles, Nivesh Doodla, says they are currently investigating the use of microdotting on bikes to help curb the rampant bike theft in the province.

Store manager of Hattons Cycles, Nivesh Doodla, says they are currently investigating the use of microdotting on bikes to help curb the rampant bike theft in the province. (Jonathan Burton)

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Pietermaritzburg - With news of criminal bicycle rackets operating in KwaZulu-Natal, it is now believed stolen high-end bikes are being stripped and sold on the internet and bike shops.

Following the seizure of stolen ­bicycles by Mountain Rise’s Combined Action Team last week, cyclists and bicycle shops spoke of hijackings and thefts of bikes priced anywhere between R1 200 and R100 000.

A police source, who could not be named, said the cheaper bikes were ­often wrapped up and delivered across South Africa’s borders to other African counties by trucks.

However, he said seizing the more ­expensive, high-end bikes was almost impossible as once they were stolen they were never found.

“They completely disappear. High-end bikes, these one-of-a-kind bikes, are stolen and never show up again.

“We find the cheaper bikes being sent over to Malawi and other African countries but nobody will be caught selling the more expensive bikes because there are fewer of them.

“These top-end bikes are being stolen and completely stripped and their parts are being sold either over the internet or to bicycle shops.”

He said the community, bicycle shops, companies like Bid or Buy and law enforcement all needed to work together to curb bike theft.

“Microdotting bicycles would be a brilliant way to curb bicycle thefts, but bike shops need to buy into it,” the source said.

He said although it would decrease bicycle thefts and help catch the culprits, it was up to law enforcement and the bicycle companies to commit to the process of microdotting.

Veridot national sales manager Travis Griffith said microdotting was a system used mainly in new vehicles, where a “pen” that looks similar to a mascara wand, is used to create unique marks, invisible to the naked eye, all over the car.

He said then when a car was stolen or stripped down and resold, all a dealership had to do was shine a UV light over the car so the dots would appear.

Once the dealership sees the car or bicycle has been dotted, they take it to the authorities who will look at the dots under a microscope and enter the dots’ unique code onto Veridot’s data system and all the information about the car or bicycle will appear.

“Microdotting has greatly decreased the number of car thefts, especially if the car has a sticker that says it has been dotted. It has been a quantum leap forward and will definitely help with preventing bike thefts and help recover stolen bikes.”

Griffith said the pens were sold to bicycle shops who then used the pen to mark their bicycles.

“Microdotting is fairly inexpensive and will cost a cyclist under R300 to microdot their bikes,” he said.

Pietermaritzburg Hattons Cycle manager Nivesh Doodla said the hijacking and theft of bicycles was a real concern for the cyclist community and Hattons was investing in the use of microdots for their bikes.

“We have clients calling in a few times a week for insurance claims on stolen bikes. People need to be vigilant with locking their bikes up and putting them away and make sure they go riding in groups of three or more.

“Cycling is a growing sport that can be enjoyed by the whole family but it is also a high-risk sport as criminals realise how expensive bicycles can sometimes be easier to steal than a car.”

Suspicious behaviour

Online sales companies such as Bid or Buy have said they go to great lengths to ensure no stolen goods are sold through their website.

Operations manager Johan du Toit said the site had created a community watch group where people could leave the company a message if they found any activity or items to be suspicious.

“We have an entire section dedicated to keeping an eye on the community watch section.

“If we get a complaint or find any suspicious or high-risk behaviour on our site, we immediately investigate it and ask sellers to provide proof of the origin of the product.”

He said the main success of these investigations depended on the community and working with the authorities. He said they found the community were very active in reporting suspicious behaviour.

He urged the community to continue to keep an eye on suspicious behaviour and to inform the company of a stolen bike and provide a photograph so the security division of Bid or Buy could keep an eye open for it. — Witness Reporter

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime

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