Belgium has a long-running problem with bicycle theft – in Brussels, cases of stolen bikes have shot up in recent years. Yet with plans underway for a nationwide bicycle plan to improve infrastructure and encourage more people to adopt the mode of transport, there is a pressing need to clamp down on thieves.
To this end, police will be able to hand bicycle thieves on the spot fines of €250 from 1 January 2022. Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne hopes that this immediate reaction will put an end to these crimes going unpunished and will stop the perception that "small" crimes go unpunished, Belga News Agency reports.
On top of the fine and having to return the bike, thieves will have to pay any damages caused.
According to estimations from Quickenborne's office, approximately 230 bicycles are stolen each day in Belgium – in the Brussels-Capital Region, 4,474 reports of bicycle theft were made in 2020. Police forces are often unable to intervene and, until now, had few measures at their disposal to bring thieves to justice. Furthermore, victims often lack confidence in the systems in place to deal effectively with the theft so don't report them.
- Bait bikes won’t work if theft isn’t prosecuted, says cyclist group
- Brussels bike thief sentenced to 37 months in prison
- Crime in first half of 2020 up 8% thanks to lockdown
In fact, only one-third of thefts are believed to be reported although this still equates to some 30,000 verbal statements each year. This new system of rapid response should not only serve as a more compelling threat to would-be thieves, it will also allow police to directly and efficiently discipline thieves without weighing too heavily on resources. As laws stand currently, even if caught in the act of stealing a bicycle, police must question the thief before the civil justice minister can begin judicial procedures.
Repeat offenders and organised gangs will be pursued in courts of justice.