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Sarnia police launch bike-theft probe in response to public’s concerns

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Although several issues were raised at a series of town hall meetings held across Sarnia earlier this fall, theft, particularly of bicycles, emerged as one of the top complaints.

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The figures clearly confirm this concern. So far this year, 691 thefts have been reported, representing a 4% increase from 2021, which had already seen a 19% jump from 2020.

“Obviously this is a growing concern. It is a recurring problem. It’s very important in the community,” said Sarnia Police Chief Derek Davis.

The problem is just as big inside a Sarnia police property room that contains a mountain of stolen, unclaimed and modified bicycles.

“I’ve never seen so many bikes and I’ve worked in a really big organization before,” said Davis, a Halton Regional Police superintendent before being named Sarnia’s top cop earlier this year.

In response to this ongoing issue, a team of officers conducted an investigation during which they left an official Sarnia police bicycle unlocked and unattended outside various locations in the city. The bike was left leaning against a building for four to five hours at a stretch for a total of around 40 hours while officers kept watch nearby.

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The results were released Nov. 15 at a press conference inside the Sarnia Police Training Complex attached to Lambton Mall. A total of 11 arrests were made and 24 charges laid. Once the bike was taken just 10 minutes after being exposed. Davis showed video of three suspects who were allegedly caught in the middle of the attempted robbery.

Davis declined to name the suspects because their cases are still in court, but noted a common excuse given after their arrest: The bike belonged to a friend and they were returning it.

One person caught on Exmouth Street, however, was completely transparent. Even if the bike had been locked up, the suspect said he would have walked to the nearby Home Hardware, stolen a pair of bolt cutters and returned for the bike, Davis said.

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“(Then I allegedly) took the bike to a friend’s house, painted it, changed the serial number and sold it for drugs,” the suspect allegedly told police.

“Those are the words of the individual who was arrested,” Davis confirmed.

One of the suspects was a first-time offender with no criminal record, but allegedly admitted to police that he had a drug problem and planned to sell the bike to buy drugs. Most of the suspects, however, had dozens of prior or pending charges, prior criminal convictions, and were on probation or on release orders.

“While a stolen bike might be considered a less serious offense, it’s not about less serious offenders,” Davis said.

The chief added that it is essential not to link shoplifting, thefts and mischief, apparently minor offences, with young people or normally law-abiding people who make a mistake during a night of drinking.

“Less serious crimes are often multiplied in quantity to feed a larger problem,” he said, “but we have to look at the big picture. That’s really what it’s about. »

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