U-lock to stop bike thieves
Since 2012, over 50,000 U-locks have been given out by the police to combat bicycle theft. While at least one estate has seen some success, ELIZABETH LAW (firstname.lastname@example.org) finds out there's still more work to be done
He parked his bicycle just outside his flat and in an area with high human traffic, so what could go wrong?
Well, everything did for retiree Masrol Asamat, 65, when his mountain bike got stolen in June last year, even though he had parked it at the bicycle bay outside his first-storey home in Simei.
It was right in front of Simei MRT station, which is popular with cyclists who park their bikes there and hop onto the train.
His was just one of 1,256 bikes reported stolen that year.
In 2013, it was 1,221.
As a result of the rising numbers, the police gave out 50,000 bicycle locks over three years to combat theft.
Last June, Mr Masrol had parked his bike at the usual place and was stunned when both the vehicle and cable lock he had used to secure the bike were gone.
He said: "I was shocked because I thought this area (in front of the MRT station) is crowded and people wouldn't dare to steal anything. The thief must have done it at night."
While the bicycle cost about $100, Mr Masrol said it was the idea of having something stolen from right outside his front door that upset him.
In November last year, several new initiatives were launched to deter bicycle theft, including an online database for bike owners, anti-theft signs and the giving out of free U-locks.
But many in the cycling community believe that once a bicycle is stolen, there is little chance of recovering it. Prevention is key.
Mr Woon Taiwoon, founder of Love Cycling SG (LCSG), one of Singapore's biggest community cycling groups, said: "When your bike is being targeted, there is very little you can do, even the best locks can be broken."
He recommends using a cable lock on top of a U-lock, locking one's bike to an immovable object and having as few quick-release parts, such as wheels and seat posts, as possible. (See report below.)
Whenever the LCSG community hears of a stolen bike, they post it on the group's page so that others can keep an eye out for the stolen bike.
This is also done in the more niche cycling groups such as BMX riders, which Mr Wyser Chu belongs to.
In 2011, while still a student, Mr Chu had ridden his $1,000 BMX bike to study with friends at a fast-food outlet in Geylang East, leaving his bicycle against a glass panel so they could keep an eye on it.
His bike was stolen during the 30 minutes he was engrossed in his books. After realising it was not a prank, Mr Chu made a police report and also posted on a BMX riders' Facebook group.
"On Facebook, our BMX community has a group for discussions and selling of items. It then consisted of up to 800 members, which seemed pretty likely that someone would see my bike somewhere," he said.
About a week later, someone told Mr Chu that he saw a boy riding the same bike in Bedok, and he immediately took a taxi to the address.
There, he found out that the boy had bought the bicycle from someone else just a few days ago.
"I didn't force him to return my bike as he was somewhat the victim of the crime too," he said.
As for Mr Masrol, he was given a U-lock by the police after he reported the theft of his bicycle, and now uses it on his electric bike, which he still keeps parked outside his flat.
He said: "Even though since then, my side mirrors and helmet have been stolen, and my storage box prised open, at least I know (the thief) cannot steal my entire bicycle."
New initiatives work in Simei
While the number of cases of bike thefts has risen nationally, one estate has seen a 37 per cent drop.
Simei has seen the figure plummet in the first 10 months of this year, compared to the same period last year. That is because last year, the National Crime Prevention Council and the Singapore Police Force ramped up on activities to deter bike theft islandwide.
This included giving out free U-locks, launching a database for cyclists to register their bicycles and stepping up on cyclist education.
Security in Simei is overseen by the Changi Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC).
Community policing officers are outside Simei MRT station between 3pm to 6pm nearly every day, where they install the U-lock holders for cyclists and also try to educate bike owners about bicycle safety.
Since the middle of last year, 1,182 of the locks have been given out by the NPC alone.
When The New Paper visited Simei MRT station on a Friday afternoon, three Community Policing officers were seen installing lock holders on bicycles and talking to cyclists' about how to best use the lock.
CHAIN WAS CUT
For retiree Lim Seng, it now meant he had a sturdier lock for his bicycle, instead of the chain and padlock he had previously used.
"My last bike was stolen when I chained it to a water pipe. The chain was cut," he said.
"Hopefully (the U-lock) is much sturdier and won't get cut as easily."
The police also have an online database launched with bicycle online classifieds and forum, Togoparts, for users of Bicycle Security Labels.
These labels, which have been in use since 2011, have a unique serial number to help owners keep track of their bicycles.
So, those in the community will know if stolen bikes show up in the secondhand market, deterring bike thieves from reselling the bicycle.
With the online database, members of the database can update the status of their bicycles online - such as whether the bicycle is in their possession, lost, stolen or found - along with a picture of the bicycle.
They can also check against the database to make sure they are not buying stolen bicycles.
Preventing bike theft
- Keep your bicycle at home when you are not using it.
- When parking in public, choose an area with high human traffic, preferably with close-circuit television cameras monitoring.
- Secure your bicycle to a permanent structure such as a bicycle rack.
- Ensure all easily removable bicycle components are locked or secured.
- Make permanent identification marks such as engravings, or affix the Bicycle Security Label on the body of your bicycle.
BICYCLE SECURITY LABEL
Comes with a unique serial number that helps you and the police identify your stolen bicycle.
Available at all Neighbourhood Police Centres, along with U-locks.
Meant for bicycles only and is not a form of bicycle registration.
Source: Singapore Police Force