This volunteer-run community group retrieves stolen bikes in Kamloops 

With bike thefts increasing by 28 per cent over the last five years, Stolen Bikes Kamloops uses creative solutions to reunite bikes with their owners.
Two people stand with a city in the background. It is clear they have been biking as they are wearing helmets. The man in the photo is Lyall Alore and he is wearing a white helmet and black sunglasses. The woman in the photo is Deb Alore and she is wearing a red helmet with black sunglasses. They are both members of Stolen Bikes Kamloops.
Deb (left) and Lyall (right) Alore cycling through Stanley Park over their holidays in recent years. Submitted photo

Lyall Alore has been an avid cyclist, commuting in Kamloops for nearly 30 years.

Now, at the age of 61, Lyall has suffered from the loss of five stolen bikes during his tenure commuting in the Tournament Capital. 

Most recently, Lyall and his wife, Deb Alore — who is the force behind Kamloops Cycling Coalition — saw four bikes stolen from the Sahali area within 11 months.

“It’s definitely a gut punch,” Lyall says. “Cycling is a big part of my life, and recreational mountain biking. It totally impacts you financially too because it’s a $10,000 mountain bike.”

Roughly a month after moving to a condo, the couple saw video surveillance of three of their locked-up bikes stolen from a bike room secured with steel doors in the underground parkade in August of 2021. 

In fact, roughly 20 per cent of bikes are stolen from indoors and many recovered bikes wind up in police auctions each year because there is no way to trace the owner, according to the City of Kamloops. But thanks to the quick actions of a grassroots community group on Facebook, and serial number tagging through an anti-theft app called Garage 529, Lyall’s bike was recovered the same day it was reported stolen, and Deb’s bike was recovered within a fortnight. Their third bike was never found.

“I was elated the first time (to get it back),” Lyall tells The Wren by phone. “It was a great feeling to get it recovered, and as fast as I did. I got it back the same day the first time, and it was all thanks to the people at Stolen Bikes Kamloops.”

With a total of 1,500 members in the Stolen Bikes Kamloops group on Facebook and a handful of volunteer administrators from the community, cycling enthusiasts have successfully reunited 17 bikes with their owners since April.

“Having three bikes disappear is a big blow,” Deb continues, but the couple is grateful for the support from Lin Moroz, Stolen Bikes Kamloops’ RCMP liaison, Stacey Gagnon, the new Cycling Initiatives Coordinator at the City of Kamloops, and the entire crew of volunteers involved in their efforts.

Two men stand in a parking lot with a bike. The man in the photo is Lyall Alore and he is wearing a blue shirt and has his thumb up. The other person is a police officer. Lyall is a member of Stolen Bikes Kamloops.
Lyall Alore was reunited with one of his stolen bikes thanks to cycling allies from Stolen Bikes Kamloops, RCMP and Garage 529. He appreciated how rarely cyclists are reunited with their bikes after a theft and expressed gratitude for the help of the community. Submitted photo

Recovering stolen bikes with community support

Lin Moroz, who retired from the RCMP five years ago, spent 15 years assisting police with criminal matters, including bike thefts. She began acting as a liaison for the Stolen Bikes Kamloops group to bridge the gap between community members and the police, by using her understanding in how the RCMP prioritizes calls to make reports on behalf of the group. 

Some citizens say it can be hard to get information from police about bike thefts and statistics, for example, because investigations are ongoing. As a result, some details of bike thefts remain confidential. Moroz naturally fills this void due to her existing relationship with the police, and knowing how to communicate effectively with them about thefts.

She urges cyclists from the community to register the serial number of their bikes on Garage 529, which is an anti-theft app used by police and Index, a similar bike registry and theft reporting service. Apps like 529 Garage are added to police computer records, helping reunite bikes with their owners.

Using these third-party tools, other cyclists and authorities can watch out for stolen bicycles, report sightings and inform the owner and law enforcement.

She is optimistic that visitors in Kamloops will be able to access information about bike safety and security from their hotels thanks to organizations like Tourism Kamloops who are getting the word out. Moroz encourages travellers to be aware of the ongoing thefts in Kamloops, and be proactive in storing their bikes while visiting the area.

“I think for me, and for our group, the biggest solution is taking preventative measures,” Moroz says, noting people can post reports of suspicious activities or stolen bikes in the community group to support cyclists and their safety. 

However, the Stolen Bikes Kamloops volunteers and community members recognize there aren’t any perfect preventative measures. Instead, the troupe focuses on its triumphs.

While two of the three stolen bikes were recovered for the Alores’ within a fortnight, disaster struck again in the spring of 2022, despite improvements to the bike room. 

Two high-end bikes were stolen from the room, bike rack included, after the thieves failed to cut through Lyall’s $500 bike lock.

“It totally bummed me out for quite a while, and I’m still upset by it,” Lyall says.

He retired in January of 2021, and believes the impact of the thefts to his mental health and social life has been detrimental. It significantly reduced his ability to participate in recreational activities with their friends who ride mountain bikes.

“It’s such a great activity for your physical, mental health and the health of the planet,” Lyall says of his outdoors pursuits.  “Even with these setbacks, the positives outshine the negative. You just gotta keep going and stay one step ahead [of thieves].”

The couple has not had any other issues after working with their strata and developer of their Sahali building, and that is in part due to the community support dedicated to tackling the problem. 

“Lyall and I didn’t get all pissed off about the theft,” Deb said. “We addressed some issues to work together with the developer and the strata to make improvements, and those improvements have helped. Not all of those improvements were done at that particular time.”

Lyall Alore has been commuting by bike for nearly 30 years. He credits the sport for his physical and emotional well-being, while strongly advocating for the environment. Submitted photo

‘Well-lit areas with good visibility are best’

With a 28 per cent increase in bike thefts over the last five years, Kamloops RCMP are encouraging cyclists to take extra safety measures into account before riding this season. 

“As the weather warms up, we generally see more people utilizing bikes for both regular transportation and recreation,” Kamloops RCMP Const. Crystal Evelyn said by e-mail, noting there have been 64 stolen bikes reported to the local detachment this year, as of June 8. 

“The presence of more bikes visible in the city can also increase opportunities for thieves looking to cash in on them,” she says. “Although you can never completely eliminate the threat of theft, there are a number of things bike owners can do to help reduce the risk.”

She encourages cyclists to store their bicycles in a safe location, using a lock or two if possible (never by the front wheel only), inside of a locked area to improve security.

“Choose appropriate places to park,” Evelyn adds, “Well-lit areas with good visibility are best.”

The Mounties caution riders that leaving bikes in, or attached to, vehicles even in underground parkades, is high-risk — especially when owners run a quick errand at a large parking lot like the mall.

“Secure underground parking lots are a popular stalking ground for bike thieves,” Evelyn said, while encouraging cyclists to register their serial numbers with anti-theft applications.

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