"SOFTWARE engineer Josephine Koh woke up one morning to find three of her four bicycles missing from the porch of her semi-detached house in Telok Kurau.How to protect your bikeSome bicycle shop operators offer tips on how owners can protect their two-wheelers:
They were worth more than $1,000 in total. There was no trace of the thief nor any sign of a break-in.
'They must have sneaked in from my neighbour's house. Their gate is usually not locked and the thieves could have climbed over the dividing wall and into our place,' said Madam Koh of the theft, which occurred last year.
Even as more people in Singapore get into the cycling and triathlon habit with bigger and better bicycles, bicycle thieves are getting bolder.
They are now zooming in on bicycles that can cost thousands of dollars. They no longer target bicycles left in the open but boldly enter private compounds to filch them.
Residents in the eastern part of Singapore seem to be particularly vulnerable. A spate of about 10 such cases in private estates there in the past two months has prompted the police to send out advisory letters to residents.
In the letters, sent out in the past two weeks, police say that the thieves have been gaining entry into homes by climbing over the gates and removing bicycles left unsecured on the porch.
In one case, two slim Chinese men, each about 1.62m tall, were spotted within the compound of a house, said the advisory. 'We believe the culprits are targeting expensive bicycles,' it added.
The police told The Straits Times yesterday that a 30-year-old man was caught last month after stealing a $7,000 bicycle from a house in Simei. He has since been charged.
Cycling has become more popular here, with dedicated cycling tracks in neighbourhoods such as Tampines. More people are also buying expensive bicycles - a high-end Cannondale model can cost $20,000 - for events such as triathlons.
Bicycle thefts have also increased sharply. Last year, 1,074 were stolen, up from 675 in 2008.
While the police assured residents in the east that they had stepped up patrols, they also advised home owners to keep their bicycles inside their houses and away from the view of passers-by. They could also lock their bicycles to fixed permanent structures and use strong locks.
Bicycle owners are also urged to make permanent identification marks on their bicycles and keep records like receipts and photographs.
A check at two private residential estates in Bedok yesterday showed that many home owners leave their shiny, expensive-looking bicycles on their front porches, with many left unsecured. A number of front gates were left wide open with no one in sight.
Some residents said they were taking more precautions with their bicycles after receiving the advisory.
Primary school teacher Chris De Souza, 62, said he used to leave his gate latched but unlocked. He has since started padlocking his gate.
He owns four bicycles that cost about $1,000 each, which he leaves in his backyard covered with a tarpaulin sheet.
Still, residents are not overly worried.
A 54-year-old housewife, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Baey, said: 'We'll just make sure we lock the gate but we will still leave the bicycles out here. It's quite safe here.'
Bicycle theft can be lucrative as such thefts are usually hard to trace, bicycle shop owners said. High-end bicycles sold second-hand can easily fetch $1,000 each, especially if they are in good condition and relatively new.
Bigger stores are usually wary of taking in second-hand bicycles as they cannot tell if they are stolen. But there are some tell-tale signs that suggest a bicycle was obtained dishonestly.
'Such people usually come in on the pretext that they are selling for someone else and will not have much knowledge about the bike or its value,' said Mr Walton Seah, owner of Attitude Bikes, which sells custom-made bicycles.
'I have encountered such people but I always say no. We just don't know where it came from.'"
Choose the right place to parkSee also this previous post, "Is Kembangan bike theft central?" from Mar 2008.
Areas with high human traffic are more secure than quiet stairwells or under bridges, said Mr Gilbert Loo, 38, of bike shop Hup Leong Company. 'Thieves won't be so daring if there are people walking about, but if the bicycle is hidden away by the owner, it actually makes it easier for thieves to steal,' he added.
Use a secure bicycle lock
Bicycle locks can cost from a few dollars to nearly $100. Mr Francis Tay, 47, the owner of L&T Cycle, said he always recommends the Kryptonite brand of U-locks to customers because they are made from high-quality steel. 'It costs $60, but it's very hard and will hold up well against steel cutters,' he added.
Secure the bicycle frame and tyres
Bicycle wheels are easy to dismantle, so locking just one wheel and the frame may not be enough to deter a thief. The rear wheel of a bicycle should be locked to its frame with a chain or U-lock, and another chain should be used to secure the front wheel as well.