AuthorTitze, Thad A.

The motorcycles, the technology and the security may have all changed... but the mindset of the thief has not. Bikes simply remain easy to steal, strip, clone or be exchanged as currency anywhere in the world, emphasizing both their popularity and vulnerability. (1) Dr. Ken German I. INTRODUCTION

The United States is home to approximately 8.4 million on-road registered motorcycles. (2) In 2017, 44,268 motorcycles were reported stolen--a five percent decrease from 2016. (3) Overall, reported motorcycle thefts have declined by about thirty percent over the last decade. (4) Motorcycle theft is a seasonal crime. Thirty-two percent of reported thefts in 2017, for example, occurred in June, July, and August, compared with eighteen percent of reported thefts in December, January, and February. (5) Distribution of motorcycle thefts by states generally aligns with population distribution across the United States. (6) California accounted for seventeen percent of total reported thefts, followed by Florida (10%), Texas (8%), South Carolina (4%), North Carolina (4%), and New York (3%). (7) South Dakota's sixty reported motorcycle thefts in 2017 represent less than one percent of total thefts across the country. (8)

For motorcycle owners, there is some consolation. Of the 44,268 reported thefts in 2017, forty-two percent were recovered between January 1, 2017, and February 28, 2018. (9) South Dakota's recovery rate of forty-eight percent sits higher than the national recovery rate. (10) Popular brands among motorcycle thieves include Honda, which accounted for twenty percent of total reported thefts in 2017, followed by Yamaha (16%), Suzuki (12%), Harley-Davidson (12%), and Kawasaki (12%). (11) Recovery rates by brand track closely with their respective rates of reported theft. (12)


    Motorcycle theft expert Dr. Ken German notes, "two-wheel theft is easy and the bread and butter of crime gangs across the globe." (13) Motorcycle theft has become a lucrative business that generates the supply to meet the demand for less expensive bikes and parts. (14) After-market enhancements made by owners increase the value and attraction for thieves. (15) According to Detective Joe Thrasher of the Orange County Auto Theft Taskforce, motorcycle theft occurs in two forms: theft for order and spontaneous theft. (16) In many cases, the actual theft is not a solo endeavor. One party, for example, can secure a finder's fee for simply scouting prime motorcycles and locations. (17)

    Criminal investigations into motorcycle theft rings reveal the prevalence and effects of coordinated criminal activity. In one recent case, New York City investigators recovered sixty-three motorcycles when they brought down one of the city's most active theft rings. (18) Thirty-three individuals were charged for involvement in a conspiracy which, among other things, could snatch a motorcycle in less than thirty seconds and eventually resell it in the Caribbean black market. (19) The ring would use a van to quickly load, conceal, and depart with their two-wheeled cargo. (20) Similarly, a crack-down in Queens, New York, halted the work of another theft ring and recovered eleven motorcycles, most taken from garages at apartments and private homes. (21) Seven suspects were indicted on grand larceny, conspiracy, and other charges. (22) The initial effectiveness of this conspiracy lay partly with the group's strategy of observing local police activity and then creating a diversion in the form of traffic violations, while other members of the group stole bikes from previously scouted locations. (23)


    It starts with the old line: location, location, and location. Apartment complexes, with dimly-lit parking areas, are fertile grounds for savvy thieves. (24) Gated parking garages at high-rise apartment buildings are common targets. (25) Similarly attractive locations include military bases and college campuses. (26) One experienced thief described her procedure: "You drive up to the bike and observe[.] You're not legally doing anything wrong. You're not prowling, you're not vehicle...

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