Bicycle theft is one of the most common crimes in the Netherlands. But due to the Dutch police having scarce resources, an increasing workload, and low motivation, don’t expect them to investigate when your bike gets stolen.
“Anybody could get one, it’s the easiest and cheapest way to get a bike,” said Jeroen, a Dutch local who has bought six bikes off the black market, which also is a punishable offence. The price is around twenty euros cash per bike, while a used bike with legal documents could cost around a hundred.
According to him there are two main ways to get a stolen bike: contacting a dealer through social media or just asking a homeless person to steal one for you. “I told a dealer I needed a new bike by tomorrow and he already had one ready for me,” said Jeroen and added that the transaction is always quick.
Across the Netherlands there are groups that travel around and steal multiple bikes at once, Dutch police spokesperson Matthijs van Houten confirmed to The Groningen Observer.
“The worrying trend isinternational criminal gangs specialised in bike theft,” said Wim Bot from Fietsersbond, a cyclist’s union who is trying to fight bike theft on a national level.
These well-organized criminal gangs or “mobile bandits” scour the Netherlands of bikes and resell them, a recent report by Bureau Beke, a crime research facility stated. According to the report, gangs have tokens to open locks and forge bicycle frame numbers. The occasional thief increasingly making way for the gangs.
The police’s spokesperson didn’t answer The GOs questions like what are they doing to fight the black market? and how many perpetrators are caught?
The answer is not a lot. The Dutch police terminated nearly 32,000 cases early due to staff shortages last year and an extra 26 000 cases were set aside, Dutch broadcaster NOS wrote in July. NOS reported that also among them bike theft cases were rampant.
Developing tracking technology is making bike theft harder for the criminals. However, organized crime still flourishes because thieves have little fear of repercussion, in the Dutch Bicycle Embassy’s (DBE) opinion, an organization which is trying to promote sustainable mobility.
“The Dutch police have basically given up investigating or prosecuting anything related to bike theft,” said Chris Bruntlett from the DBE. He added that in the eyes of the police it’s a low-level property theft.
He referred to what a police spokesperson said to broadcaster RTL4 two years ago, that solving bicycle theft is not a priority and that research into individual cases hardly ever yields anything. “You’re almost guaranteed to get away with it even if you are caught,” Bruntlett said.
According to official data, hundreds of thousands of bikes are reported stolen every year which causes damage of hundreds of millions of euros. These numbers say little about the actual number of stolen bicycles, because many don’t believe that reporting is of any use, Bureau Bekes report stated.