Summit County sees rash of high-end bike thefts; police open investigation
Local law enforcement officials are currently investigating a string of high-end bike thefts that have taken place in Summit County over recent months. At least 23 bikes have been reported stolen in the county since early May and police believe the thefts may be linked to similar crimes in Vail and Avon.
“It has been a problem,” said Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons. “And we find that it’s sometimes a cyclical or seasonal problem. We have years with a lot of bike thefts, especially as they continue to get more expensive. It comes around, certainly not every summer, but this has happened in the past as well.”
While the sheriff’s office has only received one stolen bike report in recent weeks, individual municipalities haven’t been as lucky. There have been at least four thefts in Breckenridge since early July, and three in Dillon — two this week alone. A majority of reports are concentrated in Frisco, where at least 15 bikes have been reported stolen since early May.
According to Frisco Police Chief Tom Wickman, thieves are targeting high-end mountain bikes and the thefts typically occur at night. It doesn’t appear that the thieves are targeting any specific areas within Frisco, but almost all of the stolen bikes had a bike lock on them that was cut.
“They’re mainly happening at night, and the bikes have been locked,” said Wickman. “(The thieves) are cutting the locks, and they’ve even been bold enough on occasion to cut a couple bikes off of car racks … We’ve had bike thefts before, but not this many in this short of time.”
Wickman said the average value of the bikes stolen is somewhere between $1,000 and $1,500 with the most expensive surpassing $7,000. As of now, none of the bikes have been recovered. The bikes stolen in Dillon may not be as high-end, but they’ve had expensive components added to them, leading Dillon Police Chief Mark Heminghous to believe the bikes may have been stolen for their parts.
“Our two bikes were not high-end bikes, but had some high-end components added to them,” said Heminghous in an email exchange. “It’s easier to take the components off and sell them than to sell a whole bike. Also, individual components don’t have serial numbers like bike frames.”
Despite an ongoing investigation, Wickman said there are currently no suspects, but that the thefts may be connected to similar crimes in Vail and near Avon. At least eight bikes have been stolen in Vail over the past week from balconies, patios and bike racks.
“We received calls from Vail and Avon, and they’ve also seen an increase in stolen bikes,” said Wickman. “I would think that because we’re all so close to the highway that might have something to do with it. I-70 is in and out, and thieves typically shop for what they’re looking for.”
Heminghous added: “If there were similar thefts in other areas in the same time frame, you can probably say it is a crew traveling the I-70 corridor, looking for specific items.”
Vail Police Chief Dwight Henniger couldn’t be reached for comment.
Police recommend that people with bikes keep them inside at night, locked up whenever they’re not in use and within eyesight whenever possible. Not all locks are created equally and some offer very little protection against a motivated thief.
Among the most popular types of bike locks are cable locks, chain locks and U-locks. While cable locks can be cut, sometimes with as little as a hand sheer depending on the density, others are much more resilient.
“Cable locks are the easiest to break,” said David Keller, bike mechanic at Rebel Sports in Frisco. “Thieves will use bolt cutters or even hand snips if they’re sharp enough and depending on the thickness. With some of the U-locks they’d need a torch or high-end bolt cutters to get through. I think what’s important is just slowing down the theft. You’ve got to figure they’re thinking 10 or 15 seconds to get rid of a lock. And if they can’t they’re out of there.”
Keller noted that most well-known bike lock manufacturers grade their products based on how well they can prevent thefts, and that most will carry the grade on their packaging. There are also independent companies like Sold Secure and Art that grade locks based on tensile strength, torsion strength, strength against cutting, corrosion, freezing and more.
Keller also recommended that concerned bikers pick up a small tracker to place on their bikes — there are several that can be easily attached to bikes and tracked through an app on your phone, and even some that can be installed in handlebars that are invisible to thieves.
“Obviously we’d ask people to keep their bikes indoors in their homes, especially with the amount of money they’re worth,” said Wickman. “If you’re going for coffee or something, just make sure you can see it. Every locked device can be defeated; they’re made by man. But we’re working on it, and we’ve got some investigative techniques we’re going to employ to try and solve this.”
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