It’s 4 am in the morning and there is some rustling in the bushes outside. A clang at the gate and it’s gone. A sky-blue tricycle that is the only way 26-year-old Mikayla Paine gets around has just been stolen from outside her brother-in-law’s townhouse in Dickson.
Mikayla has autism and high anxiety. Her brother-in-law, Kagiso Tshepo Ratlhagane – also known as Kag – describes her as a pleasure to be around.
“She’s very active,” he says. “That bike is her mode of transportation. She loves riding, and does about five to 10 kilometres a day. That’s the only time she’s off the devices she uses to cope.”
Mikayla’s dependence on the tricycle, coupled with the fact it was a day before her birthday, dealt a doubly devastating blow when it was stolen.
“She was crying and very upset,” says Kag.
He runs a Canberra dance company which also provides disability support work. Mikayla spends some time with him and his partner when she isn’t living with the rest of her family in Ainslie.
“We have a hedge covering around the front of the townhouse and she parks it in the front yard,” says Kag. “That night, stupidly, we were in a bit of a rush and I forgot to lock the gate. It was closed, but not locked.”
The only way Kag knew the time of the tricycle’s disappearance was thanks to his sleep app.
“I’ve got this app on my phone that tracks your sleep patterns and that night at around 4 am, it picked up some sounds of rustling in the bushes,” he says. “They must have also crashed the bike into the fence as they were trying to take it.”
Luckily, this is a story with a happy ending.
Word about the theft travelled quickly on social media and before long a woman reached out to Kag, saying that her daughter had just come back from a run and had spied the bike propped up against some bins at a Dickson apartment complex.
“I went for a drive and found it,” says Kag. “I didn’t really want to get into a confrontation with anyone so I just took it and rode it back to our place.”
Despite the fact they had already purchased a replacement tricycle, the return of the original was met with a welcome reception.
“Mikayla is very happy,” says Kag. “She says she now has two bikes.”
Kag has been living in Dickson since 2014 and says petty crime has really taken off during the past two years. Many of his neighbours have had their cars broken into and their apartments ransacked.
He says when the theft was reported to police, they were met with disinterest and inaction.
“About a year ago, a guy tried to break into my apartment by smashing the window while I was there asleep,” says Kag. “Earlier this year, I had my car parked on the street and someone smashed the windows, going on to smash several more car windows throughout the street. The theft of the bike is the third incident in the space of two years.”
So far in 2021, Canberra’s inner north has the second highest number of reported crimes of all the ACT’s regions, after Belconnen. This includes 541 in Dickson. Of these, 58 consisted of property damage, and 186 of theft. These numbers are lower than some historical years, but with two months to go before the end of 2021, they have already exceeded the numbers for 2020.
“Something is going on,” says Kag.
He did contact police regarding all three incidents but was told there was not much they could do. Conversations with the body corporate have proven equally fruitless.
“To be fair, we should have locked up the bike and locked the gate,” says Kag. “We’re just glad there’s a positive ending this time.”