By Imane Rachidi
The Hague, Aug 22 (efe-epa).- Around 600 million euros ($707m) worth of bicycles were stolen in the Netherlands last year with street gangs increasingly targeting high-end models and e-bikes in order to sell them abroad or strip them down for parts.
Why do the Dutch ride such old bicycles? It is a frequent question from visitors unaccustomed to seeing the rickety contraptions favored even by the country’s prime minister, Mark Rutte.
A possible answer is that they are less likely to be stolen. Penalties for bike theft are low, as are the chances of catching the culprit or recovering one of the estimated 1,500 bicycles that disappear off the streets every day in the Netherlands.
The older the bike, the less attractive it is for the gangs, who are becoming more and more organized in their shady activities, forcibly removing bikes chained up in the street and even robbing stores and private houses.
Jos Kuppens, from the Dutch investigation agency Bureau Beke, led a seminar on bike theft in the Netherlands this week.
Authorities were observing “a surge in more organized gangs and individuals operating in quite a professional manner,” he said, adding: “the price of bikes is going up, and so they become more attractive to steal.”
Thefts on demand were also on the rise, Kuppens said.
“A vendor will tell a thief where to look because someone has just bought two bicycles.”
Electric bikes are a growing target for the gangs, but high-end road or city bicycles also disappear with frequency should the owner choose not to use one of the parking areas equipped with 24-hour surveillance.