Greetings from the Gulf: They’re peddling our pedals!

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By John Morton

In a recent Sheriff’s Report, all but one of the entries described the theft of a bicycle. Clearly, there is a rash of this going on around the Key, and most often they don’t involve the cutting of a lock. No, they are the result of people simply not locking them at all.

Leaving them unsecured and unattended for mere seconds is asking for it. And it’s not only happening at Siesta Beach. Condo complexes, residential neighborhoods, businesses. You name it.

One recent case stood out: An electric bike, and its cart, were locked together but to nothing else! Hello?

How convenient for the thief. And here the creep thought he was going to have to make two trips.

I would almost be too embarrassed to call the cops – but it is important that you do. I’ll explain in a moment.

As always, someone on Facebook provided a post of perfect perspective that gave me a laugh.

But there’s nothing funny about this problem. Regular bikes are getting more and more expensive, and the popularity of the electric bike takes it to another level. It’s no surprise this is happening.

Where do most of them end up? At pawn shops. While that makes sense from the crook’s point of view, it’s an outrage from the other side. I mean, who brings a legitimate bike into a pawn shop? Have you ever heard of a family doing this? Handed down, offered to a neighbor, donated to an organization.

Unless it held Lance Armstrong as he crossed the finish line at the Tour de France, or maybe a dog named Toto in the front basket as a twister approached, we don’t see bikes wheeled on in during episodes of Pawn Stars, do we?

So, when one arrives at the pawn shop door, no doubt it is stolen property, Duh. It’s pathetic that they are even accepted.

But then again, these are pawn people.

And that’s why you should record your bike’s serial number — it’s usually located under the bottom of where the two pedal cranks meet — and photograph other distinguishing characteristics.

A Siesta Sand article from 2015 shows the importance of this. It details a case where vacationers had three brand-new Trek hybrid bikes — rented from Siesta Sports Rentals — stolen from an unlocked garage. Because the serial numbers were on file, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office tracked them down at two different pawn shops when their data bases were examined.

The pawn shop that is nearest to Siesta Key, on Clark Road near Gulf Gate, was one of the stores involved in this case.

A local man was eventually arrested for the thefts, but that’s rare.

I called our local pawn shop to see if it still purchased bikes. It does.

But get this: In Florida, pawn-shops owners have the right to charge for the return of the items to whomever wants them back, despite being stolen property.

Yes, Florida Statute 539 protects the pawn-shop owners, absolving them of the responsibility of vetting goods they purchase. No wonder they wheel and deal in black-market bikes.

Now, there is an exception to this if a judge orders the property returned, likely through small claims court, but that’s one heck of a rigamarole for the average victim.

Unfortunately, Sarasota County does not have a bicycle registration program. It should! After all, the city has one.

Could this finally be good reason for annexation into the city? A win-win, Schwinn-Schwinn!

Probably not. 

Meanwhile, as we work to encourage more bikes and fewer cars, the county needs to invest in as many bike racks as possible. Smart business owners should do the same on their properties.

As for the rest of us, lock ‘em up people. It’s a bummer we can’t have trust in something as basic as bicycles, but that’s life on a beach where strangers come in droves.

Let’s stop them from so-often taking us for a ride.

(John Morton is managing editor of Siesta Sand.)

John Morton
Author: John Morton

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