Police in Brussels registered 555 reports of stolen bicycles in the first half of this year, according to figures obtained by Bianca Debaets (CD&V), a member of the Brussels parliament.
The figures cover only the police zone Brussels City-Ixelles, and show that the majority of thefts take place in the centre of the city.
“The statistics show that most thefts take place in the area of the Place des Martyres, the city centre and the Toison d’Or area,” she told Bruzz.
“The thefts take place most often in the afternoon and the evening, in the period between 14.00 and 20.00.”
The total for the first half of this year is down on last year, largely as a result of the Covid-19 epidemic and measures taken to combat the spread of the disease. In the first half of 2017 there were 677 recorded thefts. Of those 15% were electric bikes, whereas the percentage this year has gone up to 20%.
The numbers of stolen bikes is rising steadily – 1,505 in 2017, 1651 in 2018 and 1963 in 2019. This year could be the exception, but then the circumstances themselves are exceptional.
However the exact extent of the problem is difficult to estimate, since not all thefts are reported to police.
In the vast majority of cases – 86% to be exact – the cases concern a simple bicycle theft, without aggravating circumstances like a break-in or personal violence. A working group was set up to tackle the problem, which led to the Facebook page ‘Veloflic’, where the Brussels police post photographs of stolen bikes that have been recovered, to allow the owners to reclaim them.
“Thanks to that page, 60 bicycles could be returned to their owners, so that is already very positive,” Debaets said.
Last month, Brussels mobility minister Elke Van den Brandt said there were still 6,700 people on a waiting list for a secure place to leave their bikes, either in a protected parking spot or in an on-street bike box. That number was an increase on the 4,000 names listed prior to the Covid-19 crisis, as bicycle use became more common.
“This imbalance must be tackled urgently, otherwise it will be difficult to put a stop to this problem,” Debaets said.