Cycling season signals bonanza for bike thieves

It seems the start of the Flemish spring cycling competition was not only hotly anticipated by Flemish sports aficionados. The thieving fraternity too have been eying the purveyors of bicycles. In only a week's time bicycles worth a quarter of a million euros have been stolen.

Thieves targeted bike shops in Geraardsbergen, Sint Niklaas and Kluisbergen last weekend. Christine Mattheeuws of the association of independent professionals: "These are professional marauding gangs who break in at night and target expensive bikes, especially the following brands: Kuota, Specialized, Eddy Merckx and Pinarello."

Last year there was a 39% increase in burglaries in bike shops. This year too the trend is upwards.

Christine Mattheeuws: "The start of the cycling season means an increased demand for bikes. Unfortunately also in criminal circles."

In Geraardsbergen thieves got away with 11 expensive bike frames. In Sint-Niklaas 25 race bikes formed the booty.

The thieving gangs display a high degree of professionalism. Christine Mattheeuws: "They reconnoiter the premises preferably when the shop owners and staff are busy with customers. Shop owners should be vigilant, note down the number plates of people acting suspiciously and report them to the police."