DENVER (CBS4) - The Denver bicycling community is raising concerns about the amount of bike thefts happening in and around the metro area.
They're not wrong. According to police, Denver alone saw a 20% increase in reported bike thefts from 2019 to 2020.
Cases CBS4 found included bikes locked in garages, locked on vehicles and some locked and inside apartment buildings.
"They had to know that's where all the bikes were," said a man named Jonathan.
He asked that CBS4 not use his last name considering the trio that took his and his wife's bike haven't been caught.
All the victims CBS4 spoke with had their bikes secured in some way, but in each case it wasn't enough to stop thieves.
"It's just like another day at the office," he said.
Cyclists say not only are they seeing it happen more frequently, but the thefts are also more brazen and more often targeting high end bikes.
Surveillance video shows in a room full of options the thieves in Jonathan's case went straight for his rare and expensive e-bikes.
"The replacement costs were $18,000," he said.
Denver police spokesperson Jay Casillas say they work to recover every bike. Their warehouse is currently at a capacity holding roughly 1,000 bikes.
"Sometimes they can't be traced back to a victim," he said.
But many in the bike community say they've found their bikes in homeless camps and have had little help from police.
"I was driving within a couple blocks of my apartment complex and I saw it in one of the camps just sitting up against a fence and it was a really unique bike," one victim told CBS4. He snapped photos of his bike, hoping to take them to police and because of what happened next, he asked that we keep his identity hidden.
"A guy sitting next to the bike asked me what I was doing, and I said I'm taking a picture of my bike. He then asked me to move on, so I did. I was walking away, and he started chasing me with a gun," he said.
He never got his bike back.
Weston Miller has a much different ending. Not only was his bike stolen within the first 24 hours of moving to Denver, but it was also found in that time.
"I went downtown, I spoke to an officer down there who gave me a location of a couple homeless camps and I went to the first one, on the way there luck would have it the guy rode right past me on the sidewalk on it," Miller said.
"It caught me off guard, so I had to make sure it was my bike and as soon as I confirmed it, I got him off the bike and a little scuffle ensued," he said.
Denver police say the number of stolen bikes that end up in homeless camps is small but driving through downtown on Thursday a CBS4 news crew saw dozens if not hundreds of bikes littering the streets.
"It does look strange seeing a bunch of bikes piled up but when officers go for the most part, they are not seeing any indication that they are stolen," Casillas said.
Because of that those bikes will stay where they are, leaving many in the bike community feeling defeated.
"I think they understand now that there really isn't any recourse from authorities," Miller said.
CBS4 tried speaking with several people living in the homeless camps, one man who didn't want to go on camera said there are several stolen bikes in the camps and that the expensive ones are often sold for cash.
The two men who found their bikes in the camps contacted police. Neither one could file charges. The first needed a name and in the second case the suspect was being taken to the hospital and jumped out of an ambulance.
Police advise against taking your own action in any instance and say registering your bike's serial number is the best place to start to protect your property.
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