A spate of high-end electronic and mountain bike thefts in Christchurch during the coronavirus lockdown has victims suspecting an organised crime ring at work.
Dozens of expensive bikes, amounting to tens of thousands of dollars, have been targeted over the past two months, according to police data and victims spoken to by the Herald.
A dedicated police officer is on the trail, Christchurch Metro Prevention Manager Inspector Leairne Dow said.
Yesterday, Canterbury Police issued a plea through its social media channels, asking: "Have you seen these stolen electric bikes?"
Two Moustache brand e-bikes were stolen last Tuesday, May 12, from a business in the suburb of Saint Martins.
It's the latest pedal heist to hit the city in recent weeks.
One couple who had two "very expensive bikes" stolen from the Christchurch CBD late last month, during lockdown alert level 4, suspected a "well-calculated operation".
After joining local forums and posting alerts about their hot two-wheelers, they believe at least 26 top-of-the-range mountain bikes have been stolen over the past month – and many more in previous months.
Many have been pilfered from locked sheds, with tools being used to break in.
The cost of the missing bikes amounts to tens of thousands, if not more, they say.
Some victims are understood to be doing their own investigative work.
The central city area around Madras St appears to be a hot-zone for the pushbike pirates.
Police data shows that of all callouts coded as "burglaries" around the Madras St area since alert level 4 was introduced on March 26, around a quarter included theft of a bicycle.
"These bikes are valued at thousands of dollars," Dow said.
The stolen bikes are then being sold through second-hand stores and online sites including Facebook, police say.
Christchurch Police say they have had an officer working with a focus on preventing bike thefts "for some months now".
They are working with Christchurch City Council, bike retailers, major local companies whose employees may bike to work, and other operators, and looking at trends and prevention methods.
Dow said online purchasers often tend not to question why such high-value items are being sold so cheaply online.
"While online may be a great place to nab a bargain, it's worth questioning the seller if you think the deal is too good to be true," she said.
"They may have a record of purchase of the items, or another way of proving their legitimacy. If you're in doubt, ask whether the seller can provide information which confirms they own the item, then consider whether you ought to make the purchase."
Bike owners should ensure their bikes are being locked away, police say, and use secure bike locks when parked in communal or public areas. They should also write down serial numbers and take photos of their bike, while also reporting any suspicious behaviour around areas where bikes are parked.
If anyone has any information, they should phone 105 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.