Tuesday, 21 August 2012

You know scooters are getting popular when...

I'm pretty lucky really. I've had my scooter for about seven years now and, other than fearing I'd lost it to the businessman who was supposed to store it safely one winter, I've never encountered a scooter thief. I do take some precautions, like locking the steering whenever I park the bike and storing it out of site at home. I have even used a U bolt on the back tire when I parked it outside my workplace, knowing that all locks can be broken but also knowing it would take a thief some time to take it apart on a busy Toronto street. But I have done stupid things too, like forgetting my keys in the ignition. In fact, one day I left my scooter the whole working day on that same busy street with the key in the ignition attached to an inviting blue key chain. I thanked the Scooter Gods that day.

When any product becomes popular with consumers, it becomes attractive to thieves. It has ever thus been so. - Think of the stories of copper rooves being torn off churches in England as the price of the metal rises - Motorcycles and scooters are no exception; in fact, they are easy targets. They are small enough that they can be carted away by a group of burly thieves and mechanically simple enough to be tampered with by a smart one who can roll it away. Stories about scooter thefts turn up around the world. The police in Delhi, India just arrested a gang who had been stealing scooters and selling them at junk markets. They caught another thief last week after noticing a crowd chasing a man through the streets. He had just tried to steal a scooter using a master key, something he is alleged to have done before. But it's not just in India; police in Australia, Great Britain report higher rates of scooter theft. One of the saddest stories of late came from England. Ricky made what living he could in a depressed economy delivering fast food on his scooter. It was stolen outside a friend's house and now Ricky can't work.

The United States is no exception. In Florida, Cpl Doug White of the Hillsborough Country Sheriff's Office reported that although his county has seen "almost a double-digit decrease in crime in the last few years," it has witnessed a 10 percent increase in motorcycle and scooter thefts in the first half of this year. "These scooter are an economical way for families to get around," he said.

There's even an on line site where U.S. riders register their stolen scooter: http://scoot.net/stolen/  .

So how easily is it done? According to the police from Hillsborough County it doesn't help when people leave the keys in the ignition (whoops), don't lock their steering mechanism, or leave their scooters in their garages with the doors open (think I've done that too.)

But some thiefs will just break the steering mechanism.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yN9RqQBPxJk Watch a thief try to do that. He doesn't manage it but did cause extensive damage to the scooter.

Atlanta police released this video of scooter thieves in action. It takes a while to see what they are doing and it's hard to tell how they got the scooter or whether it was locked, but they did roll it away.


So what can be done? The Annapolis police have created a Scooter Watch Theft Protection Plan. It involves decals that are applied to the front and the rear of the scooter which means riders are willing to be stopped by police to prove ownership.


If you don't mind being stopped by police, it's not a bad idea. But there are other ways to decrease the risk of having your scooter stolen - beyond the simple ones like taking your key with you, locking your steering if you can and keeping your scooter out of site at home. The site Safe Rider recommends securing your scooter to something fixed with chains, or using U bolts and disc locks. It also suggests marking as many parts of the bike as you can to make it less attractive to thieves for resale. This, it suggests, can be done with ultra violet pens.

Other sites recommend alarms, some that go off if the scooter is tilted, some that are attached to the disc brakes.

I eventually stopped using my U lock. It took time to put it on and off and I got complacent. I guess every scooter rider has to assess the risk of every situation. The extra precautions may take some of the fun out of scootering but could mean you'll be doing it longer.

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