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ACPD Warns of Bike Thefts

by ARLnow.com November 11, 2010 at 12:42 pm 2,662 37 Comments

Nearly 400 bicycles have been stolen so far this year in Arlington County. According to police, many of those thefts were preventable.

To help residents protect their bikes, the police department is asking cyclists to use a U-lock rather than chains or cables.

Police are also reminding bike owners that they present thieves with an easy target anytime they leave their bike unlocked on a front porch, in a shed or in an open garage.

ACPD issued the following additional tips for protecting oneself from bike theft.

Be prepared:

  • Register your bicycle with the Arlington County Police Department. You will receive a decal that may be a visible deterrent to theft. Your bicycle information will also be on file in case it is stolen.
  • Keep a photograph of the bike and a record of your bicycle’s serial number and distinguishing features.
  • Make a note of the brand and the style.
  • Note the identification number (located underneath the bike, between the cranks).
  • Most importantly, take a moment to consider what makes your bike unusual. What will make it stand out from the crowd? Photograph any distinguishing characteristics (unusual seat or pedals, scratches, racks, bags – the things that make your bike yours).
  • If it is generic, personalize it.

The most effective counter strategy for a cyclist is to use two types of locks; a U-lock combined with a cable or chain. As with most cycling skills, technique is everything.

  • Open the front quick-release, remove the wheel and place it next to the rear wheel. Rest the fork on the ground.
  • Put the U-lock around a fixed object (guard rail, bike rack, etc.), the rims of both wheels, and some part of the bike frame (either the seat tube, chainstay, or seatstay.) Make sure the lock goes around the rims and not just the spokes, or a thief with wire cutters can walk away with your nice set of wheels.
  • Thread the cable lock through the frame, the front wheel (if it is bolted on), and around a fixed object. Because different tools are needed to break each lock, you will have a backup if one lock is defeated.
  • Do not forget the saddle. If your seat-post has a quick-release, pull the whole thing out and run the cable through the saddle rails.

If you observe someone with a backpack, spending time around the bike racks at the Metro or in your condo garage or taking too long to unlock a bike, it may be suspicious. Call the Arlington County Police Department Non-emergency Line at 703-558-2222.

The Arlington County Police Department also has an Abandoned Bicycle Hotline. If a bicycle remains in place (unlocked) at a parking meter, lamp pole, or bike rack for longer than five days please call 703-228-4057. Leave a description, location and a contact number because the bicycle may have been stolen and left behind.

  • PurpleFlipFlops

    I wonder how many bikes are stolen out of residential buildings which are forced to offer both public and private (for residents) parking. That would be most buildings built within the last 5 years (at least.)

    Same goes with car thefts / vandalism / break-ins.

  • tuesdayschild

    Do the bike thieves use the shared bike/road lanes to make their escape?

  • TGEoA

    How to really lock your bike (scroll down the page)


  • MB

    Unlike some neighboring jurisdictions, the ACPD (particularly Sgt. Hurlock) actually tries to put recovered bikes and their owners back together. I highly recommend registering your bike with them.

    Also, yes, use a U-lock. Those cables are just a hint of deterrence, and nothing more.

  • Rob

    Both of my bikes are registered with ACPD. I replaced the quick-releases on the tires, and always use a U-lock.

    What I wonder is, what happens if my bike is stolen outside of Arlington? I do a lot of riding in DC, if something happened to my bike in the district, would ACPD still be willing/able to help me out?

  • bob

    Officer Hurlock is a great resource, but when I reported my bike stolen the report never got to her.

  • NovaBrian

    My bldg in Rosslyn was hit last Thanksgiving Eve. 6 or 7 locked bikes stolen from our semi-private garage, around 3am or so.

    • PurpleFlipFlops

      Do you have a bike room (locked?) as well in the garage?

      I really wish Arlington would allow private garages in new construction.

  • Not a big fan of registering bikes. Usually the means of the registration fails – back in the day it was a metal plate you strapped to your bike – guess what – it rusted. More recently, I registered my by with Arl. Guess what, after a few years, the decal had faded and become illegible. So much for that.

    Best thing you can do is secure your bike with a good U lock. And not all U locks are the same. The old U locks could be popped with a ball point pen. They dont make those anymore. But look at the reviews – some are better than others.

  • Lardbut

    If you value your bike, don’t ever leave it anywhere, locked or unlocked. I never use my bike lock, because I never leave it anywhere, no one can be trusted. I don’t use the bike storage in the garage bc it’s an invitation to the bike thieves.

  • Henry Spencer

    I agree w/Lardbut, the best bike lock is your eyes.

  • OddNumber

    Wired recently put several bike locks to the test. The best performers were pretty expensive, but if you’re really into protecting your bike then you might find their review interesting.


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