Most stolen bikes unlocked, police sayOnly one of 14 bicycles recovered in Mitchell so far this year.
By: Marcus Traxler, The Daily Republic
Bill Peacock thought Mitchell was safe enough that he didn’t need a bike lock.
He learned the hard way that was wrong.
Peacock was downtown when his bike was stolen from in front of the American Legion on Main Street about a month ago.
The 47-year-old said he got his bike back just a few days later when Cody Denne, who works at Ron’s Bike Shop, saw it roll in front of the shop at 723 S. Sanborn Blvd. and then ran the rider down.
The rider willingly agreed to give the bike to Peacock and claimed he did not know the bike he was riding was stolen. The thief allegedly sold the bike to the rider for $50.
“I’m pretty grateful for Cody at the shop for keeping an eye out for it,” Peacock said.
His story of getting his bike back is rare, at least this year, according to the Mitchell Department of Public Safety.
The Police Division has recovered one bike in 2012 among the 14 reported stolen. In 2011, 11 of 25 stolen bikes were recovered in Mitchell.
It is more common to simply find a bike around town without it being reported stolen, according to Public Safety Chief Lyndon Overweg.
Mitchell police reported 55 found bikes in 2011 and 23 so far in 2012.
“We find them all over the place,” Overweg said. “They could be lying in yards or left at the park. Recovering bikes is far more common.”
The Mitchell Police Division stores lost and unclaimed bikes in an impound lot near the Mitchell Municipal Airport. Lost bikes can be dropped off there as well, and if someone has outgrown a bike, it can be dropped off at the site.
Overweg said police hold the bikes for 90 days in storage before putting them in the Pedal Power From The Pen program, which takes the bikes to the Mike Durfee State Prison in Springfield. Inmates refurbish the rides and law enforcement redistributes the fixed-up bicycles to kids in need.
“They do ask that the bikes are available to salvage and that there are no bent frames or that they are not rusted out,” Overweg said.
For Denne, getting Peacock’s Trek mountain bike back wasn’t difficult, because he had worked on his bike before at the shop and knew, for example, that it had high handlebars.
“It’s easier to keep track of some bikes, especially when they are ones that we’ve worked on here at the shop,” he said.
Cody helps his father, Mike, run the shop, which has been in the family for 53 years.
Peacock said he thought Mitchell was a safe enough and small enough town that he wouldn’t need to worry about his bike being stolen.
“It doesn’t make sense to steal a bike, because it’s only a matter of time before someone finds it and you get caught,” Peacock said.
Jamie Henkel, the recreation coordinator for the Mitchell Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, can remember roughly 10 bikes being stolen from the Mitchell Aquatic Center in Hitchcock Park over the last few years.
Henkel said the pool staff advises people to lock up their bikes and will help as needed, but each person is responsible for their own bike.
“We suggest that they bring a bike lock and lock it up and, hopefully, no bikes are stolen,” Henkel said. “For the most part, if parents want to file a report, they can go to the police.”
Mike Denne said his shop has had a handful of bikes stolen over the years. The most notable was when someone took an $800 bike on a test ride to the end of the block, where a truck was waiting. The person threw it in the back and took off.
“Even with that, it’s still pretty rare for us to see a bike get stolen,” he said. “When we kept used bikes outside, sometimes it would happen more.”
His son said it’s common for the shop to sell a new bike but have a customer decline to buy a lock to go with it. He estimated 80 percent of stolen bikes are sold without locks. The bike locks retail between $15 and $35 at Ron’s.
“People just don’t think about buying a lock,” Cody Denne said. “Most people do put them in a garage or a shed, but otherwise it might be a good idea to invest in one.”
The city does have a bike registry program at which bicyclists can leave their serial numbers, make, model and color to aid investigators if their bike is stolen. The service is available at no cost and riders can register at the Department of Public Safety.
“We recommend that people buy and use locks and that they register with us,” Overweg said. “That makes the process easier for everyone.”
Peacock said the hard lesson has been learned.
“You’ve just got to be a little more careful,” he said.