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Bike Thefts Quadruple This Year in Williamsburg, Police Say

WILLIAMSBURG — Bike thefts in Williamsburg and Greenpoint have quadrupled in the past year, skyrocketing from 24 in the first half of 2011 to 96 in the first half of 2012, cops said.

"It's happening all over," said the 94th Precinct's commanding officer Deputy Inspector Terence Hurson of the thefts in North Brooklyn. "It's been increasing since the spring."

He would not speculate as to why the theft reports had increased.

Hurson said his officers had stepped up efforts to go after stolen bikes, and had made six arrests this year compared with none in the first part of 2011.

But he insisted that more people needed to get their bicycles etched, or tagged with identification codes, to help officers track down and identify stolen bikes.

"Although we have increased our efforts in enforcement, the tracking of stolen bikes and our ability to recover them after they have been stolen is limited," he said, noting the difficulty of distinguishing one bike from the next.

"It gets frustrating for us," he said. "Someone asks me, 'What are the chances of getting my bike back?' and I say 'Not very good, unless you've had it etched.'"

Some members of the local bike community speculated that the rash of theft reports might be due to such an increase of new bikers in the neighborhood.

"A lot of times new bikers buy entry-level locks," said Krista Ciminera, a former bike messenger and bike seller in Williamsburg who noted that there were many local "professional bike thiefs" who could steal bikes in a matter of minutes. "It's a pretty difficult thing to catch in the act."

Ciminera, 29, said she didn't go to the police when her bike was stolen months ago, but that other members of the bike messenger community spotted it 15 minutes after she sent a mass text message to make people watch out for the personalized two-wheeler, whose stickers and decorations made it recognizable.

"They went on a high-speed chase and got it back," recalled Ciminera. "It's good to personalize your bike, not just to ride around a factory Schwinn."

Another local resident, Ariel Yotive, said she kept her bike at her mother's apartment in the East Village since she had no room to keep it stored inside her Williamsburg apartment and refused to keep it outside overnight.

"You leave your bike outside and it's going to get stolen," said Yotive, 24, who added she felt many people had become too trusting that the "overly gentrified" neighborhood was free of crime.

But even new bikers insisted they kept vigilant watch over their wheels to ensure they would not fall victim to theft.

"I don't park it at subway stops, or at clubs, or other spots where people know there are problems," said Miri Armstrong, 31, who purchased a used bike just three months ago.

Some cyclists said they would never consider reporting a bike theft to the police, because they found it fruitless to enlist official help.

"I'm surprised people are reporting them to the cops," said Sam Littlefield, a bike messenger who works for the local cafe Urban Rustic. "If you get your bike stolen you're not going to get it back that way."

And Ryan Kuonen, a Williamsburg Community Board 1 transportation committee member, said the apparent spike must be due to more people reporting the thefts coupled with an increase of people in the area purchasing bikes.

"The bike community is pretty tight, so I feel like if the numbers were quadrupling we'd hear about it," said Kuonen.

"To say there were only 24 thefts [last year] is a laugh," she said. "To say there are 100, yeah, that makes sense."

Hurson said that to help combat the problem, riders can call the precinct's Crime Prevention Officer at 718-383-5298 to set up an etching appointment.