Arlington Heights police are seeing a big increase in bicycle thefts this year, but they aren't sure why.
The police department keeps track of how many bike thefts are reported at the village's two Metra stations, and in 2011 that number was zero, Cmdr. Mike Hernandez said. In 2012, four bikes were reported stolen from the train stations. So far in 2013 though, nine bikes have been reported stolen, he said, not to mention bike thefts from other parts of the village.
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For example, a crime alert sent Monday detailed four bikes stolen from a downtown Arlington Heights apartment building, totaling more than $5,000. The bikes were reportedly locked to a rack in a common bicycle storage room at 299 N. Dunton Ave., and were stolen sometime between July 20 and July 28, according to the alert.
Officials said they aren't sure why there's been an increase in thefts this year, but they are asking for the community's help in tracking down the thief or thieves. Hernandez said police haven't determined if some of the thefts are related, and no arrests have been made.
Doug Hajek, crime prevention officer with the Arlington Heights Police Department, had a few tips for how to keep a bike from being stolen.
"Use strong, high-security locks that cannot be cut with a set of bolt cutters," he said, adding that U-locks are a good example. "Heavy chains will also work if the lock is also high-security."
He also said it's never a good idea to lock your bike to a sign or something short that a thief could just lift the bike over.
"The most important thing is that the bike frame gets locked up to a stable object that's bolted to the ground like a bike rack," agreed Pam Berg, who works at Village Cycle Sport, a bike store with locations in Arlington Heights, Elk Grove Village and Barrington.
Berg suggested using a U-shaped lock to lock the bike frame to the rack, and investing in locks for the wheels and seat as well.
"A lot of times, people will lock their bike to a rack through the wheel and the wheel gets removed and the bike is taken so you need to lock the wheels to the frame also," she said.
Some bikers also remove their seats when leaving bikes overnight to keep them from being stolen.
"It really is an art to lock a bike right," Berg said. "The more expensive the bike, the more likely it is to get stolen." There are a few downsides to investing in such elaborate lock systems -- the expense and the bulk of carrying them on a ride. The store sells bike locks ranging from $30 to $240. Cheaper cable locks can be found for less money, but those are the ones that can easily be cut by potential thieves, Berg said.
"But it's worth it (more expensive locks), compared to how much the bike costs," he added.
Police are also asking anyone who sees suspicious activity in and around bike racks to report it.