Electric Bikes Are Everywhere–And So Are the Thieves

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NB Indy editor Christopher Trela with an electric Pedego bike

Ubiquitous: Ever present, all over the place, all-pervasive, far reaching, inescapable, and more.

We’re not talking flies at a barbecue, or ants in the kitchen after the kids spilled the honey.

No, the new definition for ubiquitous is—electric bikes; and to a slightly lesser extent, tiny-wheeled electric skateboards .

Electric bikes, also known as e-bikes, literally are swarming throughout Newport Beach, especially around schools (going to and coming from), along the boardwalk, down stretches of PCH, zooming the streets and alleys on Balboa Island and the peninsula.

Lt. Eric Little

“I’m not sure on the number of electric bikes here, but we’re seeing a huge increase in the number of them on our streets,” said Lt. Eric Little, who oversees the Newport Beach PD’s traffic division. “Many residents own electric bikes, and we draw many visitors who either bring their own, or rent them.”

With the proliferation of electric bikes, as well as conventional bikes, during the pandemic years, there also has been an increase in accidents and injuries, Little observed. Most common causes are speed, unsafe turns and right-of-way violations, he said.

However, what seems to hurt more than scrapes and bone fractures is the realization when an owner wakes up in the morning to go to school, or goes to retrieve their e-bike when finished surfing, that their favorite, cheap-to-operate two-wheeler is no longer there.

Because of e-bike popularity, it should come as no shock that e-bike thefts are on the rise, while conventional pedal bike thefts have decreased, Little noted.

E-bike prices range between $600 and $8,000, with the majority retailing between $1,500 and $4,000. There’s a hefty resale market for purloined e-bikes. But all is not lost when a bike is stolen, especially if that bike’s serial number had been registered via Project 529 — an online bike registry utilizing downloaded photos and serial numbers that make it more difficult for thieves to resell stolen bikes.

Interestingly, the name is a play on hours of the day: People work nine to five; but after work, serious cyclists hit the roads or trails from five to nine.

“Our detectives do actively work bike theft cases, and have had a lot of success in the past,” said Detective Sergeant Brandon Rodriguez. “By registering your bike, it allows us to enter it into the stolen property system, and that greatly improves our chances to solve the case.”

An owner-applied marking that is difficult to spot also assists investigators, because thieves frequently eradicate frame numbers, he shared.

During a recent theft investigation in Lynwood, in which a $25,000 power washer was recovered, detectives also located two high-end electric bikes, whose sophisticated IDs revealed that both were stolen from Newport. The liberated bikes were returned to one ecstatic owner.

As wonderful as tracing technology is, sometimes the old tried-and-true methods of security work best: Lt. Little recommends that you store your bike indoors, or use a heavy-duty chain and bike lock that are difficult to cut, proof that simplicity is still elegance.

To report a stolen bike, go to the NBPD online reporting system (NBPD.org) or call the non-emergency number, (949) 644-3717.

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