That is why some beach residents are taking matters into their own hands in documenting the illicit and growing trafficking in bicycle theft, repurposing and resale.
Longtime Pacific Beach resident Janelle Sherako and others have taken the lead in chronicling the who, where and what of bicycle theft within the beach community.
On her 22 years living in PB, Sherako's never seen crime, especially bike theft, as bad, and as widespread, as it has become today.
Sherako concurs with the view that the type of theft routinely going on in Pacific Beach and the rest of the coastal community, where one or more bicycles are stolen nearly every day, is not random but part of an organized effort, in which some local homeless people are being recruited to participate by outside criminal elements.
“Criminals are paying [homeless] to go get [bikes],” said Sherako. “That's what I've seen.”
A victim of bike theft herself, Sherako and her family have had six bikes stolen over the past five years. She told an interesting tale about one bike she had stolen, that she was able to recover. Her bike had been chained along with a friends, and the mutual lock was cut and both bikes stolen. She later “found” her stolen bike on Craigslist.
“I found hundreds of bikes there on Craigslist, and one of them was mine,” Sherako said, noting pictures of several of the Craigslist bikes were “taken in front of the same planter. That's your first clue that this is a (theft) ring."
So what did Sherako do?
“I went over there (where her stolen bike was chained) with bolt cutters and I cut the lock and I stole my bike back,” she said.
Watchdogs in PB have been chronicling alleged illegal stolen bike chop shops operating brazenly and openly in the community. One spot that has been utilized frequently by alleged thieves is the baseball diamond and public park across the street from PB Rec. Center. Because places like that park are in the public domain, it's difficult to get a letter of agency allowing the police to go there to investigate and/or enforce the law.
“Maybe we can get the city to give us a letter of agency during the time frames in which we have children's activities over there,” Sherako said. “That would be the start of increasing safety there.”
Sherako said there's another hurdle to clear. One of the many issues involved is, how do you separate out truly needy homeless people from the criminal element that are traveling among some of them and allegedly exploiting them to steal bicycles that are then repurposed and resold.
“We're documenting all of this for community awareness,” said Sherako, noting education on how to prevent theft is key.
“Put in your (bike) serial numbers,” she counseled. “If and when your bike gets stolen, the only way you can do anything about it is if your bike is registered. If it's not registered, there's nothing you can do. The first thing they (thieves) due is file off your serial numbers.”
Where do things go from here?
“We're going to start a petition (to get letters of intent), that's where we're going to start,” Sherako said.
What can local residents do to help out with bike theft in PB?
“Don't turn a blind eye,” answered Sherako. “Make eye contact (with thieves). Let them know they're being watched and that they need to have permits.”
Sherako suspects there are perhaps a couple of dozen homeless who may be involved in bike theft locally.
Sherako said alleged thieves have even been spied by witnesses surreptitiously cutting locks on bikes at stands, before driving off with them.
“We know who they are and about their criminal records,” she said. “The have back packs with bolt cutters for the locks and all the other tools. We are not anti-homeless. We are anti-criminal element coming in and using the homeless to steal bikes. We're taking back our city.”