Column: Getting a handle on petty crime

The summer I was 11, I had a rather unique bicycle. It was blue, with thick tires and an oversized seat. If memory serves, it was a hand-me-down from one of my mom’s friends.

In most respects, it was an average girl’s bike, but what made it special were the handlebars.

Rather than curl under in the sleek form of a five- or 10-speed racing bicycle, or lay flat across in the design typical of mountain or touring bike, these bars branched out from the stem before bending sharply and rising up and out, then bending again toward the rider, capped off by a pair of blue rubber handgrips. It was the sort of thing that any hipster today would be proud to ride — wind blowing briskly through his giant, painstakingly groomed beard.

It was odd looking, yes, but the shape of the bars made it ideal (apparently) for popping wheelies. At least that was the comment I overheard from a pair of older boys as I rode past them down my street one day.

So it came as little surprise one morning soon after to find my chain lock cut and the bike’s handlebar-less remains dumped in the alley behind our house.

We immediately called the police.

Pffft. No, of course we didn’t.

Instead, I chalked it up to the bad luck of having something that someone with no scruples wanted, and moved on.

My birthday the following September netted me a brand new 10-speed with regular curly handlebars and I happily rode it until I turned 16 and got my driver’s licence.

There’s a real sense of freedom that comes with riding a bicycle. The idea of doing it in Lower Mainland traffic is, frankly, terrifying and I would never consider it (but my hat is off to those who do).

Still, there are plenty of great trails — flat and vehicle-free —  that make ideal riding terrain for chickens like me.

The problem is storage. Short of parking it in my dining room, there is really nowhere to put a bicycle in my compact living environment.

And there’s no question in my mind that if I locked it up on my patio, it would be gone before I had a chance to get the tires dirty.

I’ll admit it’s a defeatist attitude, but it’s one that’s been somewhat borne out lately by crime statistics in the Langleys. Petty crime, including theft, is  on the rise. Of course, that’s based only on the number of incidents that are actually reported. If someone steals your car or breaks into your home, obviously you’re going to call the police.

But how many of us find items missing from our cars or yards, and simply shrug and move on?

Policing accounts for a huge portion of a municipality’s budget. I personally don’t begrudge a cent of it. Like all emergency services, it’s comforting to know it will be there if I’m ever unlucky enough to need it.

But it only makes sense to help them target those resources as best they can.

Which is why police are always pleading with the public to report any and all crimes — even petty theft.

Should your bike’s handle bars be stolen, it’s doubtful they’ll send out a unit to take fingerprints and interview witnesses. Nor is it likely we’ll see the formation of a new IHIT (Integrated Handlebar Investigation Team) any time soon. But each criminal act forms a piece of the puzzle.

No doubt it’s more high tech than this, but in my mind’s eye, I picture a cork board with a map.

Each crime gets a pin. The bigger the cluster of pins gets, the more resources are directed to an area and the fewer jerks will be in that neighbourhood stealing bikes from little girls and boys.

That’s important, because until the day they turn 16 and get their driver’s licence, they’ll still need something to move on.

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