Palo Alto hit with surge of bicycle thefts

Citywide thefts on the rise for the past month

Bike thieves have been hitting Palo Alto neighborhoods in earnest, with 15 thefts reported in about the last 30 days, Palo Alto police Sgt. Sal Madrigal confirmed.

The thefts have taken place throughout the city, with no one neighborhood being targeted, according to police reports, but the incidents appear to come in waves, when a rash of the thefts will occur on one or two days followed by a lull before the thieves hit again.

Police advise residents to be vigilant and lock up bicycles, garages and gates.

Fifteen thefts were reported between June 27 and July 25, with six incidents July 11 and 12, and four on July 18 and 19, according to police logs.

The thefts occurred from Pasteur Drive to various streets near downtown and in the University South neighborhood, on Cambridge and California avenues and in the Duveneck St. Francis neighborhood.

Sue Dremann

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Like this comment
Posted by more bike racks
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 29, 2011 at 1:30 pm

So glad to hear about the new bike rack that was installed on Ramona Ave. The city really needs to install more secure bike racks in well traveled areas around town. Too many people are parking their bikes in poorly lit or out-of-the-way areas that give thieves a lot of time to crack the locks.

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Posted by Me
a resident of Duveneck School
on Jul 29, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Good, helpful reporting would describe how the thefts are occurring, so we could all respond accordingly. For example, are these thefts of locked up bikes (e.g., by cutting/breaking locks), or is it all just thefts of bikes that were left unlocked? Was this mostly at homes, or in public areas? More detail would really help...

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Posted by more bike racks
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 29, 2011 at 3:23 pm

The article gives a variety of locations, but the emphasis seems to be on business areas like downtown and California Ave. I assume these are bikes belonging to business employees or customers. People do generally lock up their bikes, but unfortunately the vast majority of bike locks sold by local department and hardware stores can be easily broken with lightweight hand tools. Also, the locations of most bike racks around town make them easy pickings for thieves.

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Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 29, 2011 at 5:39 pm

My son at Paly uses a U-lock, which is too difficult for thieves so it's a good deterrent. He places it in the side pocket of his backpack (the netted area for water bottles). They wouldn't be able to steal his frame but they can strip the rest of the bike. To lock the rest of the bike, he'd have to bring an additional coil lock which can easily be cut. In fact, coil locks are extremely easy to cut.

My daughter stayed after school to talk with a teacher at Jordan for half an hour and found her bike knocked over. She rode it home although the brakes were jammed against the tire. We took it to a reputable bike shop to fix it and they noted that the handlebars were incredibly loose. She rarely rides her bike so we concluded someone tried to steal it or strip it, as it is a name brand bike. Her teacher at Jordan said that years ago, her bike was parked in the cage and someone brazenly climbed over the fence and stripped parts off her bike.

Someone at Duveneck said that her bike was stolen from her driveway a couple of months ago.

Another Duveneck parent said a new bike was stolen from their backyard.

Still another, had 3 bikes stolen in 3 years: downtown, their garage, their backyard.

Afterschool sports leave bikes unguarded and there are stories of bikes being stripped too.

PA is like a candy store for thieves. I regret buying name brand bikes for my children. Bike store employees say that thieves often drive big trucks around, snatching bikes which end up in a different country.

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Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 30, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Bike locks, including the U type, can all be beaten. If a thief wants your bike then they will get it.

Truck loads of bikes don't end up in other countries. A few years ago there was a group busted that worked college campuses. They'd steal from A, got to B and sell first and then steal, got to C and sell/steal, and then return to A to start all over again.

Best thing to do is buy a beater, put a new chain on it and keep it lubed. You'll get where you're going just as fast as with a super duuper Trek, Specialized, etc. bike. You just won't be as cool.

Like this comment
Posted by craigslist
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 31, 2011 at 4:18 pm

With the advent of Craigslist and EBay, thieves don't have to sell their booty overseas any more. Keep a photo of your bike (with the serial number) in a safe place. If it gets stolen and you see a similar bike listed on Craigslist, call the cops immediately.

Like this comment
Posted by word to the wise
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 31, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Years ago when my kids were at Paly, a PAPD officer told me that every year from late July through late September, bike thefts go up in Palo Alto because there are relatively few bikes available to steal on the Stanford campus. Not only are the undergrads away from campus but this is the time when many graduate students and staff take vacations.

Alas, the good old days of leaving everything unlocked are gone, probably forever. So if you have a good bike, find a place to keep it that's not visible from the street or your back fence. And lock it to something not easily movable.

Like this comment
Posted by University
a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2011 at 8:37 am

There’s a saying amongst cycling enthusiasts: “If a thief wants to take your bike, he’s going to take your bike”. I don’t accept that and neither should you. A thief will only take your bike if the value of the bike outweighs difficulty and risk of stealing the bike. Thus, your responsibility is to make your bike as secure as possible so that the thief will just look at it and just walk on to the next. (Web Link)


Register your bicycle with your local PD or FD. If your bike gets stolen and recovered, you'll want it back right? Well it's hard to connect the bike to the owner without registration.

Register your high-security U-lock with the manufacturer and claim your rights to the theft insurance. The best U-locks will offer up to $3500 if your bike is stolen by defeating the locks.

Lastly, go to open City Council meetings (repeatedly) and make them aware that bike thievery makes their city look bad and lowers property value. Palo Alto has a GOLD rating from the League of American Bicyclists as a Bicycle Friendly Community (2003). Call them out on it! Tell them that the police need to work with local advocacy groups to start sting operations and heavy bike licensing campaigns. Put up photos of known bike thieves and the vehicles they've used.

When new trends arise, there will always be criminal opportunists doing their best to cash in. It is your responsibility to pop the the crime bubble. Don't just allow yourselves to become apathetic and defeatist. CHOOSE to act and follow through with your actions.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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