When the coronavirus pandemic began and stay-at-home orders were issued, many types of crime fell in Los Angeles. That included bicycle thefts. The 2,012 two-wheelers reported stolen to the Los Angeles Police Department in 2020 was a 16.6% decrease from the year before.
Now thefts are rising again, but these are not the only mobile devices that are going missing more frequently. According to publicly available LAPD data, thefts of electric scooters are on the rise.
Last year, there were 2,124 incidents of bike theft in the city of Los Angeles, an increase of 6% from the year before, though the figure is 12% below the level in 2019. The tally included 259 missing rides in Downtown, the most of any neighborhood in Los Angeles. The second most-victimized community was Venice, where the 187 stolen bicycles was the highest annual total ever for the neighborhood.
The neighborhood of Sawtelle, frequently visited by nearby UCLA students, also saw a higher-than-ever figure last year (139 stolen bicycles). The 59 bicycles taken in Del Rey was a high for that community.
The neighborhood with the most stolen bikes in the first quarter of this year is University Park, which houses the University of Southern California; 47 have been taken, according to LAPD data. The neighborhood has historically been a hotbed of bike thievery, with 480 thefts in 2019.
New rides missing
In 2021, just 120 bicycles went missing in the area. Part of that is likely due to few students being on campus during the first half of the year. But Ed Palmer, the captain of the Operations Bureau at the USC Department of Public Safety (DPS), also attributed the drop to many students switching over to electric scooters.
“On campus, I see so many more people riding scooters instead of bikes,” he said. “Students park them without securing them so anyone can just get on them and ride away.”
The number of thefts involving motorized bikes, scooters and wheelchairs in University Park has steadily increased, reaching a peak of 43 incidents during the first quarter of this year.
What is happening at University Park is occurring across the city. In the first quarter of 2022, the LAPD fielded 116 reports of motorized devices being stolen. That is up from 91 in the previous quarter, and 59 in the third quarter of 2021.
Palmer urged students to register their bikes and electric scooters with the school, and to properly secure them.
“I’ve seen people just lock their front tire to something, but people would just steal the bike beneath the tire,” he said. “You want to secure the bike frame to whatever you’re locking it to, as opposed to just the front or the rear tire.”
The same applies to electric scooters.
“It’s very similar to securing a bike,” he said. “Lock the whole frame to wherever you’re locking it to.”
LAPD data only reflects crimes that are reported to the department, not how many crimes actually occurred. In making our calculations, we rely on the data the LAPD makes publicly available. LAPD may update past crime reports with new information, or recategorize past reports. Those revised reports do not always automatically become part of the public database.
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