26 April 2024

Spike in motorbike thefts most likely down to one or two repeat offenders

| James Coleman
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This motorbike was reported stolen from Westfield Woden on 15 April. Photo: Canberra Riders, Facebook.

On Saturday, 6 April, Shi Yadong was enjoying dinner with a friend in the city while – unbeknownst to him – someone was making off with his bike on the street below.

The thief wrestled the steering lock free, cut and hotwired the ignition, and rode off into the night.

However, the thief hadn’t reckoned with the fact the CFMOTO 650MT has built-in GPS, which allows owners to track the status and riding record of the bike using a phone app, so Shi knew the thief rode to Queanbeyan, clocking 168 km/h on a stretch of Constitution Avenue along the way.

“I asked my friend to drive me to the thief’s house,” Shi says.

“We called NSW Police and they raided the house and got my bike.”

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By 3 am, the bike was back in the hands of its rightful owner, albeit requiring about $420 in repairs.

For others, however, it’s not so easy.

A few days later on Wednesday, 10 April, a motorcycle owner (who wishes to remain anonymous) was enjoying a beer with a mate at the Space Kitchen in Woden. It was after work, around 5:30 pm, and still light. But when he returned an hour later, his bike was gone.

In December last year, he bought the blue-bodied Yamaha MT09 to commute from Duffy to Civic.

“It was a pretty good value bike for what it is and great fun to ride,” he says.

“I thought these bikes would be really hard to steal, but obviously not if they can steal them this quick.”

The Yamaha MT09 was stolen from outside Space Kitchen in Woden. Photo: Canberra Riders, Facebook.

New figures from ACT Policing reveal a massive spike in the number of motorbikes being stolen.

Seven motorbikes were reported stolen over March 2023, and since then, the monthly number has fluctuated from seven again in September to as high as 24 in April, July, and December. The average number of motorbikes reported stolen over 2023 was 16.

However, March 2024 has more than doubled that figure – 36 motorbikes were reported stolen.

It’s understood the spike is linked to one or two repeat offenders and should fall once they’re behind bars.

The extreme numbers are echoed on local Facebook groups like Canberra Riders and ACT Riders, where posts about thefts have become almost daily occurrences. Many posts feature modern sports bikes parked in locations across the ACT, from Westfield Woden and the University of Canberra to Kambah and Lyneham.

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There is widespread criticism in these groups of the way bike thefts are managed in the ACT, with many believing policing is poorly resourced to deal with it.

“But I think in all reality, they’re constrained by some pretty strict rules,” the Yamaha owner says.

“When you’re chasing a motorbike, as soon as they go over 100 km/h in a residential area or cross over the wrong side of the road, they lose them. And obviously, they just can’t go and search everyone’s house.

“From my perspective, they were there as soon as I showed them the information, and as I kept them updated with the different messages I was getting, they were always very receptive to it.”

The Yamaha owner reported the theft to the local Woden police station but also did his own investigative work, sharing photos of the bike to social media groups in the hope someone may have seen it. The tactic worked.

Within days, he received several leads from members of the Canberra Riders group, which he then passed on to ACT Policing.

ACT Policing motorbike

Police do conduct raids of properties suspected to house stolen bikes. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

Officers chased the thief a number of times but weren’t able to keep up. On Monday, 22 April, however, fate caught up with him. It’s understood the thief was involved in an accident while riding the bike and was hospitalised. He was known to police.

“This kid … has all of a sudden got hooked up with the wrong people and was just causing a hell of a lot of mischief,” the bike’s owner says.

ACT Policing acknowledges that “motorcycles are often easier to steal than motor vehicles unless the owner takes additional steps to keep the bike secure”.

“A majority of stolen motorbikes recovered by ACT Policing are hotwired and they’re easier to conceal by thieves than a car,” a spokesperson says.

They recommend owners park their motorbikes in secure garages or secure them to immovable objects, such as poles.

But owners are also coming up with other ways to keep their bikes safe, such as hiding GPS trackers or even Apple AirTags on the frame.

The Yamaha owner will retrieve the bike on Monday, but doesn’t expect it to be salvageable.

“‘ll probably end up replacing the bike pretty quickly, and I’ll also be chucking – at a minimum – an AirTag on it.”

To report a bike theft, contact ACT Policing on 131 444. Have a copy of the vehicle’s registration, vehicle identification number (VIN) and a photo of the bike or description available.

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Tom McLuckie7:39 am 30 Apr 24

And yet we remain the only jurisdiction in Australia that refuses to electronically tag high risk repeat offenders whilst letting them out on bail again and again. The ‘Human Rights’ of our criminals takes primacy over the safety of our community. That’s ‘progressive and proven’ Government for you.

I unfortunately didnt have these extra measures in place when my bike was stolen in March, reported to police but not recovered. Thieves were pretty brazen – took it from outside the cbr centre on a busy footpath in front of an access cbr CCTV camera. Have learnt my lesson.

I have no doubt that the offender who stole Mr Shi’s bike was released on bail the same or next day and when/if convicted will end up with a slap on the wrist via a good behaviour order.

Steering locks are easy to break, or on some older bikes there is a key number embossed on the lock allowing the thief to go to a dealer or locksmith and get a key cut. Get a disc-lock to place on each brake-disc. Fit a GPS tracker in case they lift your bike in a ute. Photograph bike from 3 angles and photograph VIN and rego numbers.

Plant a few bikes with remote immobilisers and GPS.

All riders should do themselves a favour by purchasing a GPS locator. Very good, Australian made, units are available from SolidGPS in Melbourne (https://www.solidgps.com) for between $157.00 & $247.00, and can be placed anywhere on a car, motorcycle or caravan. The units are supplied with a SIM card and, depending on the signal strength, operate on both the Telstra and Vodafone networks.

Errol Kowald6:55 pm 28 Apr 24

Unfortunately GPS locators require power and while there may be an internal battery ultimately the bike battery does the heavy lifting. If you don’t use the bike regularly, the GPS will flatten the battery. Admittedly, with a flat battery the bike can’t be started, but that won’t stop a couple of enterprising thieves from picking it up and putting it on a trailer.

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