“We're here today because the beach bait-bike program has been a huge success, and because there are so many victims of bike theft in the beach communities,” said 2nd District City Councilmember Lorie Zapf.
Zapf was successful in helping add $3,000, and an additional bike, to this year's bait-bike program in the city's budget.
At the conference, Zapf showed a photo of an illegal bike chop shop in Mission Valley that was recently raided. She noted, “In San Diego County, close to 3,000 bikes are stolen every year, and beach communities are hit the hardest.”
Regardless of whether your bike cost $300 or $3,000, Zapf noted, “If your bike is stolen — you feel violated.”
Zapf pointed out bikes are stolen every day somewhere along the coast, from both public bike racks and private residences and garages.
San Diego Police Department was on hand to discuss the bait-bike program, which uses a GPS tracking system to alert them within minutes of when a bait bike is taken.
Police noted the bait bike program has proven results — and consequences — for wrongdoers. Out of 109 bait bikes recovered since the program began in 2014, 104 of those arrests have been successfully prosecuted by the District Attorney's office. The remaining five cases are still pending in court.
Racheal Allen of the Mayor's Advisory Board on Police and Community Relations, said, “beach communities are fed up with bike theft. I myself have been a victim of bike theft.”
Allen added the bait-bike program has become “a top priority of the Pacific Beach community.”
Longtime PB resident Janelle Sherako is in the thick of the fight to curb bike theft. She said she and her family have “had $2,000 worth of bikes stolen” over the past few years, all of which were locked, sometimes double locked.
“They even stole my 6-year-old child's bike,” Sherako said in a recent interview in Beach & Bay Press, noting that in beach communities, where one or more bicycles are stolen daily, such theft is “not random but part of an organized effort in which some local homeless people are being recruited.
“Criminals are paying them (homeless) to go get them (bikes),” said Sherako. “That's what I've seen.”
Sherako added thieves are re-purposing bikes in chop shops, switching out parts and repainting them, before re-selling them on Craigslist.
“I found hundreds of bikes there on Craigslist, and one of them was mine,” Sherako said, adding photos of several of the Craigslist bikes were “taken in front of the same planter. That's your first clue that this is a (bicycle theft) ring.”
Zapf praised the efforts of local residents whom she said are “taking action in taking back their communities.”
The councilmember issued a warning to potential thieves.
“If you steal a bait bike, there is a 100 percent chance that you will be arrested and prosecuted and wind up in jail,” she said. “Beware, do not steal bikes in Pacific Beach.”