Haley Shearer, 26, and her husband were walking toward their detached garage to get in the cars and go to work on Tuesday when they saw something strange: the garage door was wide open.
They walked inside and saw their two bikes, along with the bike trailer they use to transport their young daughter, were missing. Someone had broken into the garage and stolen the equipment, which was worth more than $1,300, she said.
“As we were walking outside, I just made a comment like, ‘Oh, our garage door is open, that’s weird,’” she said. “And as we peered in, both of our bikes were gone, and it was only our bikes.”
Shearer, who lives just south of Minneapolis in Richfield, is not alone. A local Facebook group that helps people find their stolen bikes shows many such thefts of late in the Twin Cities metro. Though Minneapolis crime data suggests burglaries and other property crimes are down compared to this time last year, a recent increase in garage thefts have prompted MPD crime prevention specialists to send out emails recently warning of the uptick.
Bikes have become a popular item for people to steal due to their recent increase in value, said MPD Lt. Robert Berry of the Third Precinct’s Property Crimes Division. But, he said, the increase in thefts generally isn’t indicative of a pattern of higher thefts overall, but rather is something that tends to happen in the summer.
“These things just happen because people have busy lives, and they’re not quite thinking of the misdeeds that people will do if given the opportunity,” he said. “And people who want to do those things are aware that homeowners and property owners are not quite thinking about locking up their bicycle or their grill, or leaving it out in the yard and whatnot.”
Berry said investigators are assigned to property crimes based on several factors including solvability and suspect information. But given the increase in the summer months, it’s not possible for the department to solve every case, or even assign investigators to each one.
Technology like home surveillance cameras have been helpful for officers but they aren’t solutions on their own, Berry said.
“What people need to remember is just because it was caught on camera doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to be able to identify the individual caught on the camera,” he said. “Video can be useful, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to help solve the crime.”
The department’s approach has been to prevent thefts by making homeowners aware of how to keep their property safe. In the emails sent out by the Third and Fifth Precinct crime prevention specialists, they advise keeping garages locked as well as locking up valuable items like bikes separately inside, keeping garage remotes in your home, recording serial numbers of equipment like bikes and tools, and increasing lighting in alleys.
Shearer couldn’t provide police with serial numbers immediately but contacted the store where she and her husband bought the bikes and got the information to police later. Moving forward, they plan to switch out the locks on their garage door, and purchase a security system that includes motion detectors and flood lights.