News

Bike store owners discouraged by recent cycle of break-ins

CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin Kebble Sheaff, owner of Arrowsmith Bikes, is one of two bike shops in town victimized by repeated break-ins in recent months. Sheaff, looking for ways to stem the losses, is in the process of beefing up existing security systems and sinking even more money into new, more elaborate ones. - Chris Bush photo
CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin Kebble Sheaff, owner of Arrowsmith Bikes, is one of two bike shops in town victimized by repeated break-ins in recent months. Sheaff, looking for ways to stem the losses, is in the process of beefing up existing security systems and sinking even more money into new, more elaborate ones.
— image credit: Chris Bush photo

A recent cycle of break-ins at Nanaimo bike stores have caused at least two shop owners to take the unusual step of personally guarding their businesses in the early morning hours.

Kebble Sheaff, owner of Arrowsmith Bikes, said his Nanaimo location has been the victim of three break-ins in the last month, with two of those occurring in the last week.

On Sunday, thieves tried to gain entry through the beefy steel back door, eventually giving up before smashing through the front of the store and ripping out the security bars. They took a “weird, random assortment” of used bikes, helmets and gloves, said Sheaff.

“Usually they take the most expensive bikes. I’m not sure what they plan to do with gloves,” he said.

A week earlier, thieves destroyed the back door trying to get in. Unable to enter the store, they gave up and went to Oak Bay Bikes, prying the back door off enough to set off the alarm.

One month ago, thieves broke into Arrowsmith by cracking open the rear door, stealing a few bikes that were in for service, a new expensive bike and a BMX bike.

In January, Oak Bay also had an expensive downhill bike and mountain bike with 29-inch wheels stolen. A BMX bike was abandoned in the parking lot.

“This kind of activity has increased, for sure,” said Sean Lunny, co-owner of Oak Bay Bikes. “We’re getting scoped out a lot, obviously guys coming by who are super dodgy and obviously not bike riders checking things out. We certainly feel like we’re being targeted, that’s for sure.”

Sheaff says he has spent at least two nights sleeping at his store, while Lunny has set his alarm clock for 4 a.m. sweeps of his, passing by his competitor’s to make sure it was also safe.

“We’re definitely communicating, working together,” said Lunny.

Thieves tried to break in on one of the nights Sheaff was at Arrowsmith Bikes, but the sounds of his “bitey dogs” barking scared them off.

Still, his frustration is mounting.

“It’s really disheartening,” he said. “I’m just a guy trying to make a living and these guys are laughing at me, busting in and taking whatever they please. It’s crazy. It’s discouraging.”

Police are working with both shops by increasing patrols in the area overnight in an attempt to find those responsible.

“An investigation is being done,” said Const. Kate Mooney, Nanaimo RCMP spokeswoman. “We don’t necessarily have to catch those responsible red-handed. There are other ways.”

Mooney added that store owners staying overnight in their businesses should practise caution.

“It’s an unusual step to take,” she said. “We don’t want anyone to be putting themselves in harm’s way, but at the same time you have to do your best to protect your business.”

Security feature costs are adding up for both stores.

Sheaff said each break-in attempt causes thousands of dollars in damage, usually swallowed by the business to avoid escalating insurance premiums. Arrowsmith has installed security bars, a reinforced rear door, a thick steel rod to span the rear door, and surveillance cameras.

Sheaff is considering spending more money on a high-tech window film that makes it almost impossible to break the window.

“Police say if they want in, they’ll get in,” he said. “I remember about 15 years ago someone drove a truck through the wall at Bastion Cycle.”

Oak Bay has installed a security gate in the rear of the building and security bars. Lunny and co-owner Corey Piket are debating installing expensive steel shutters to keep intruders out.

Both stores lock high-end bikes up inside overnight, though that hasn’t always prevented thieves from taking them.

Both shops are located on the busy Island Highway – Oak Bay is at the Island Highway and 106th Street near Country Club Centre, Arrowsmith at 4906 Wellington Rd. – and passersby who detect anything unusual after store hours are encouraged to call 911.

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