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Bike Thefts Spike This Summer

Philip Penrose had his Trek bike stolen from a carport in Town Shores. A spike in bike thefts is expected during the summer months, according to police, but there are ways to keep your bike secure.

Gulfport is a city that can be very bike friendly; it is compact and accommodating to get around on two wheels. Residents and visitors frequently take advantage of its accessibility; even Gulfport’s Municipal Marina offers loaner bikes for overnight stays.

Unfortunately, with the number of bicycles in and around Gulfport, there is always the opportunity for bike theft.

Philip Penrose lives at the Town Shores community off 58th Avenue South. He had his 21-speed Trek stolen about three weeks ago. The thieves appeared to be extremely blatant about their crime since, according to Penrose, the carport where he locked his bike was lighted; he assumed the bike was safe.

“I had it locked to a pole under one of the carports,” said Penrose. “Town Shores at night is pretty well lit. Whoever did it—and I checked at night—was standing in the light.”

The thieves have not yet been caught or identified, but they also left something behind.

“Someone stole my bike and actually left me the bike they were unhappy with. Mine was a nice bike, certainly nicer than the one he left me with.” Penrose said,

Since a bike was left behind, Penrose reported the crime to the Gulfport Police Department. He found there were similar thefts in the complex.

“The officer said another bike had been stolen from under the same carport the week before,” Penrose said.

Penrose owns Computer Services, Etc., providing in-home computer repair, service and tutoring. His occupation has Penrose working all-around Gulfport, so he started talking to neighbors and customers about his stolen bike.

“I heard there were several thefts in Town Shores in the past few weeks,” Penrose said. “I also heard from people around town there was a lot going on, a lot of bicycle thefts, not just in Town Shores, but Gulfport in general.”

Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent said a spike in bike thefts is to be expected this time of year.

“It’s a typical summer trend,” Vincent said. “Trouble for us is that almost every one (of the stolen bikes) was unsecured.”

“It’s almost as if we are a victim of our own success,” Vincent said. “People feel safe enough that they don’t have to lock their things up and then the things disappear.”

In 2011, Gulfport had 545 property crimes, including 117 burglaries. Vincent said that due to FBI crime reporting rules, bike thefts cannot be put in a separate category, and must be labeled as burglaries if stolen from a porch or garage.

Town Shores of Gulfport is a large residential complex on Boca Ciega Bay, with 19 buildings, 28 boat slips, a poker room and auditorium. The facility also employs security guards, but with the size of the complex, it can be a challenge to keep eyes everywhere.

“There is security, but it’s a roving security guy who checks around in a golf cart,” Penrose said. “You have all the buildings and the grounds, so it’s tough.”

Michelle Bushoven, sales manager at ABC Bicycles at 6633 Central Ave. in St Petersburg, said that the best protection for bikes is to keep them indoors. The sea air and humidity can also be tough on them.

However, Bushoven said, if a bike must be stored outside, there are some positive ways to keep it safe. U-Locks are tough, u-shaped security devices, which attach a bike to a pole, bike rack or anywhere to stay in place.

“The toughest lock you are going to get is a U-Lock,” Bushoven said. “There are very large chains also available. A lot of U-Lock manufacturers have antitheft clauses, should you choose to sign up with them.”

“They really back up their products,” she added.

U-Locks are affordable protection and can vary from $20 to more than $100, depending on shackle length and strength. An owner locks the bike, with a strong lock and possibly some chains, and it gives an expression of security; potential thieves may think twice about stealing that bike.

“The more you lock it up and the more it’s locked up tight,” Bushoven said, “it tends to make people go the other way, if it’s difficult to get in to it.”

Vincent agreed the best way to secure a bike is to keep it indoors, or at least when outside lock it carefully with a steel cable lock. He added that Gulfport also offers a registration service, to help identify stolen bikes. Last year, the City of Gulfport had 233 bike registrations.

“We stop a lot of people on bicycles,” Vincent said. “And if a bicycle we see is registered, and it is yours, we can get it back to you.”

Penrose is aware of safety concerns when it comes to bicycles, since now he is a victim of theft.

“I know if I get another bike,” Penrose said, “I’m not going to lock it to a pole. I’m going to bring it inside. I know now that a locked bike is no guarantee it’s going to stay.”

“I did have a customer offer me a bicycle that was not being used anymore,” he added. “So I might take her up on it.”

For more information about the bike registration program for the City of Gulfport, call (727) 893-1000 or contact www.mygulfport.us. The Gulfport Police Department is located at 2401 53rd St. South.

Philip Penrose August 01, 2012 at 01:48 PM
I thank the Patch for bringing this matter to Gulfport's attention. I would like to add, I am in no way insinuating that the Gulfport Police department isn't doing its job well - they are. They came promptly, picked up the bike that was abandoned and took my report. Bicycle theft is a part of every community. I highly recommend bike owners register their bike(s) with the police. With the make, model and registration number, the department is able to contact the owner if it is found by the police or turned in to the station.
CJ August 05, 2012 at 03:27 PM
I read your comment about how your bike had been stolen on the article about the police car chase. After ''3 years of moving'' our family has ''finally completd our move here from Kansas. It was a big job moving from a lifelong home. we have been here about 3 months. Out first week her, a new unridden electric bicycle got stole from our yard ...so I felt your pain. Afterwards I read up on security devices, etc...lol! We are now a little more ship shape, but I did learn a couple things I will pass on. As I am sure you know, there are many security devices for bikes that are beyond a simple ''lock''. Some very expensive, some surprisingly effective and low tech. I read that whatever you use, it is good to have more than one method you use. I now combine a decent lock with a cheap hidden motion detector device. it's not perfect, but ''OK''. There are also, for example, hidden ''tracker'' things you can get that allow a stolen tiem to be traced on the computer...but they are expensive. There are also motion detecting locks with alarms than go off AND/OR send a long range signal to a pager. Very good if also combined with the tracker devices. I am saving up to buy them...lol. Interesting ''fact'' I found out while reseraching this. In St Pete, it is required by law to register virtually ''any'' transportation item from bikes, scooter, etc. We brought 10 bikes with us from Kansas, so I was not happy to find that out...lol...especially since they charge a small fee for each...lol!
CJ August 05, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Anyway...the point is that by registering the serial numbers ...the police can instantly know if there is a stolen report on the item. I mentioned how our elelctric bike got taken. Another bike that was bascially just sitting around ..was leaning up against a tree. It was a vintage Raleigh that was a really cool bike well worth whipping back into shape. Up in Kansas, people tend to collect bikes and the long winters have their toll on the bikes. This one had rotten, flat tires for the last 6 years, the chain was so rusty it literally could not be peddeled. ''That'' bike was ''also'' stolen...and whoever took it had to carry it. Now I know why so many people ride bikes down here that are not very nice ones. A very excellent thing about here is that it's so flat here...you don't always need an expensive bike ...and ''still'' can get around quite easily on it. That said, though, even the crappy looking one will get taken if not secured. That was another thing I learned during this bad experiece. My next bike I'll repair, of my 10 others ones we brought, is going to get a sweet old Fugi Racer going. It will cost me about $40 to get it going again. It has not been ridden in 20 years, but it will be a great bike. For it's age, it is unbelieveably light. In it's day it was a top bike. It will be fun to see it ride again in our new home!

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