Most Forum members pretty much know the basic rules for keeping their bike(s) from being stolen. The whole key thing, caliper locks, "squealers" etc., is preaching to the choir (I hope...). But there's some things you may want to know as "insider" information. Some ain't pretty, and some may not be practical. Some, however, may make the difference between coming out in the morning only to find your "Precious" has been taken, OR... being able to take the nice ride you intended, and making sure what can be done is done in the case of a theft.
First of all, just so you know, I'm a retired Captain with the Sheriff's Office here in my home town/ county. I was the Marine Officer, and before that the Special Investigator and Intel Officer for the Sheriff, a Detective Lieutenant, etc., etc. My experience ranges from homicides all the way to vehicle thefts. Name it, I saw it and have the t-shirt collection.... When I did crimes, I had the highest “solve” rate ever in this County, and never had a case dismissed, or lost a case in court.
Bear with me, because I'll start this with a very recent SBT (Sad But True) tale of woe, grief, gnashing of teeth, tears, and epiphanies all round. And it has a happy ending...
It is a good example of Murphy’s Law when it comes to bike thefts, why most police agencies don’t pay much attention to what they consider as “run of the mill” or routine vehicle/ bike thievery; and what you can do to “lubricate the wheels of justice...”.
My daughter has a Katana, and son in law (SIM) has a Suzuki GX something or other “go-fast”. They lived in town until a week ago, until they moved to a real house with a garage to park the "Precious's". Well, SIM rides the Suzuki to and from work, but parked it in front of the main door of the apartment at night. My daughter, for whatever reason, kept her "ride" inside the living room as some strange monument to speed technology and modern art. Been there, done that when I was a young man. Always eat breakfast sitting on your bike comes to mind...
When I went over to the apartment a couple times, I told SIM that he needed to keep his bike on the side screened in porch, or wheel it inside with daughter-unit’s (DU) Katana. Nope, did not happen, and at 0700 hours one morning a couple months ago I get the phone call from DU and SIM. “Daddy (teary sniff, sniff clearly audible on the phone...), somebody stole SIM’s bike last night”.
Well they called the local city PD, and officer came out, took the report, did nothing else except tell them that it did not look good, and said an important fact. Seems like there were four other bike thefts that night. Huhm...
Well, being retired, nothing better to do, I headed over there and surveyed the scene of the crime. Bike was parked right next to my daughter’s car, bike was not “locked”, and had been wheeled away, across the grass down the street, no doubt to a waiting truck with a ramp, etc.
Not wanting to listen to DU’s crap for the next month, I called my buddy, the PD Chief. After the how for’s and what to’s of the “wazzup” call, he was apalled that the crime scene had not been processed in any fashion, and was actually unaware of the four thefts in the City during the night. We’re a small community and 2-3 vehicle thefts in one night is a crime wave... he said he’d send a detective over right away, and would keep me posted as to any progress.
I then called the Sheriff’s Office (SO) and spoke with my buddy, the Detective Division Chief, and told him about the thefts in the City. He was interested, seein’ as how a couple bikes also were stolen from County residents. I told him that SIM and DU would head over and also make a report with the SO
Well the “defective detective” from the City showed up, drove right up in the grass next to the apartment (running over foot prints...) and spoke with DU and SIM and gave me the “you interfering bastard” look, and started to leave. So I took him to task, so to speak, and had him dust my daughter’s car for prints. Voila! Several greasy dick beater prints where the thieves had leaned against the hood and fender while moving SIM’s bike. I then walked him through the lawn where it was obvious and evident that the bike had been wheeled to the street. Made him take pics, etc.
At that point, I laid out some facts supported by the evidence to this point.
- There had to be at least three people involved. Two to do the steal, and at least one, likely in a box body truck so that when they departed the area, no-one would see any bikes bouncing around on a trailer, or in the back of a pick-up truck.
- Given the number of thefts at one time, the thieves probably were from out of town, and it was planned. Nobody local will steal a crap load of bikes one night unless they have a buyer.
- Large scale bike thefts in South Florida are often headed to the coast and put in containers, labeled as “scrap metal” and shipped overseas, usually to South America.
- If this happened here last night, they may wanna’ call the adjacent counties, and also ask to speak with vehicle theft task forces in the counties south of here.
Well, he took notes, gathered up his donuts and coffee and left. I then sent DU and SIM to the Sheriff’s Office to file a report. I then called the investigator assigned and let them know about all the facts of the scene examination. Not to mention that that’s also how boat motor thieves in South Florida operate... Like I said, got the t-shirts from tracking down motor thieves. In fact, because I carefully processed a scene a few years prior, the prints I lifted eventually led to the bust of one of the largest boat motor theft and smuggling export rings in the state’s history. Took a while, but it paid off.
Well, it seems that the City’s and Sheriff’s detectives followed my advice and called everyone and their brother in the police world and lo and behold, a task force from over on the coast called a couple weeks later and told SIM they had just seized his bike from a container being loaded onto a ship destined for some shithole down in the Carribean. Yup, container labeled as scrap. Four suspects, used an old moving van, once a week would head out, do recon, and load up easy targets. They’d put together a fill container, load the front end with barrels of scrap and hope the useless, lazy TSA/ Customs port inspectors would do a cursory glance, sign off and away the container would go.
Other than some fiberglass, a new ignition system and his pride, SIM got his “Precious” back. He learned his lesson. Until they moved last week to a nice house with a garage, the bike joined DU’s in the Kitchen of their apartment. Damn place looked like a Hell’s Angel’s clubhouse for a long time, but what the hey.
Much to be shared here that is relevant for Forum members.
First, get to know what the “stolen bike” scene is like in your area. Is it constant? Sporadic? Certain bikes? What’s the recovery rate? Best place to get that info is from other bikers, dealers and parts people at the dealers. Some will talk to you, others will not. Oh well.
- There are two types of bike thieves: Targets of Opportunity idiots who usually live in your area, and the “rings” that usually have associations with some outlaw MC clubs, etc. When 5-10 bikes are lifted at a time, it’s a ring...
- Vehicle thefts (motorcycles) are (1) not real high on the “things to do” list for the police. Sorry folks, but it’s the truth. Unless it’s a violent carjacking, it’s just not a priority other than the usual “motions”. It’s a property crime, and most of the time the victim has insurance, etc.
- Little dirty secret here is in order. property crimes are usually assigned to the least capable investigators. Why? ‘cause the solve rate is low (10% or less), and the better detectives are assigned to crimes against persons, robbery, narcotics, etc.
- Many police officers and agencies don’t see some 20-30 something year old who had their 5 year old sport bike ripped. Notwithstanding the psychology involved, it’s just a fact of life. In their minds, the little, inconsequential, and certainly not influential tax-paying citizens who drive demon bikes are a nuisance, not a priority. Sorry to say that, but it’s true.
- Bikers are stereotyped, and often from a police point of view, considered as “Children of the Lesser God”. Next time you outrun the “man”, remember what you have done may, in no small part, affect how the “man” comes to your aid when your “Precious” disappeared in the dark night...
- Most thefts are NOT for the bike as much as for the parts. There’s more money in the parts than in trying to sell the whole bike. Exception to the rule? Newer bikes and those that are expensive and highly desirable (‘Busa’s comes to mind...).
Third, some “Hard Core” suggestions.
- Most thieves will haul ass to their next target if you have a caliper lock, and especially a squealer. If you have a cable, etc. USE it!
- NEVER tell anyone that you don’t know, or trust with the family jewels... where you live, or what your habits are. You are just telling folks when to come help themselves!
- Always tell someone you don’t know who casually asks if you “garage” your bike, “Yes locked up and alarm system at the house”.
- Always keep recent pics of your bike on hand. Especially after any mods, etc. Keep receipts for any and all aftermarket parts.
- Always keep a copy of the registration handy.
- Selling your bike? Never meet a prospective seller at your home, etc. Pick a public parking lot or the local police parking lot.
- Be ambitious and proactive! When you get a chance, or have the opportunity, scribe a unique number on the back side of your ‘ABS pieces, under the tank, backside of a fork support, back side of the swing arm, etc. Don’t use your social number. I recommend your last initial and last 4 of your DL number. Precede that with a couple XX’s, and a couple XX’s at the end.
- Wanna’ get anal? Remove the license plate when you finish up for the day.
- Really wanna’ protect your bike! Get a Lo-Jack GPS system. Hell, they are cheaper than an average exhaust system... Check out:
Stolen Vehicle Recovery System for motorcycles - LoJack - LoJack ..
I know how these work and lemme’ tell you, when someone wheels off your bike in the smoke and fog of the night, they will not get very far (just don’t be in throws of an all night weed, cheap wine and ether binge and passed out so you don’t hear your I-Whatever phone app yelling an alert...)
Other Preventive Measures....
If you park your bike outside your house, apartment, get a caliper lock and a “squeeler”. A “squeeler” is an alarm device that is movement activated. Put the device away from the bike and run a piece of fishing line from your bike to the device.
At night, if you can, park the bike real close to another vehicle. Basically block the thieves from rolling the target away...
Lastly, and hopefully this is never the case...
- You walk outside and your “Precious” is gone.... DO NOT touch anything!!! Don’t crawl around and look for clues, trample the grass, smoke cigarettes and throw the butts on the ground, etc. Call the Police right now and stay where you are until they get there.
- Make sure you have the copy of the registration (and a copy of the title if appropriate) ready for Officer I.M Friendly when he/ she arrives.
- Never let the police assign a value to the bike. Reason? It affects their statistics, and depending on the laws in your state, is the difference between a 1st degree felony (usually $10k) and just another POS routine crap theft.
- If you have “connections”, such as your wife, sister, brother, uncle, etc. is the mayor, or works for the police, local government, ask them (innocently...) if it’s alright if you check on the status of your case with them from time to time... (Squeaky Wheel Gets Greased Theory..). Hell, my son in law’s bike got ripped, of course I’m gonna use my “connections”...
- Do not let Ole’ Fuzznuts Friendly leave unless they have processed the scene in some fashion. Should include, but not limited to: A slow ‘walk-through’ of the area, dust for prints if the bike was next to anything, speak with the neighbors (lemme’ tell you, that’s a big one... You have no idea what your neighbors watch at night..., LOL!!!), and your PICTURES!!! Fastest way to determine they don’t give a shit is if they don’t ask for pics, folks....
- If you are not happy with the processing of the scene, don’t get mad, get creative... Ask for a supervisor and make sure that you get an answer as to why they did not do something. BE POLITE...
- Make sure that when they leave you have a business card, and know how and when a copy of the report will be available for you. Ask then to describe to you what will happen. At a minimum, your bike should be immediately entered into the NCIC database as “stolen”. Ask Friendly if you can call him or the investigators later and check just in case they have any questions....
- Don’t play detective unless you know what you are doing. You could easily screw up an investigation that involves not only your bike, but other victims.
- Always call every few days and speak with to whomever the case was assigned. Squeaky Wheel Theory... Ask them if there is anything you can do... You never know, they may ask you to do something.
- If anyone you don’t absolutely trust asks questions about the theft, never tell them what you really know.
- If your bike ever does a disappearing act, always start checking eBay and Craigslist, and “post-it” messages with used parts at the local dealers. You would not believe how much stolen parts move through eBay and are parted out in that fashion.
- Make sure that YOU go to the local dealers with a picture of ‘Precious’ and let them know what happened. If the theft was local, before it’s over, someone will order an ignition set, etc.
I hope this is of some help to everyone.