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Facebook page for stolen bikes expanded to all of Brussels region

13:55 08/07/2023

An online platform run by the Brussels Capital/Ixelles police zone that posts pictures of stolen bicycles that have been found and whose owner cannot be identified will now be expanded to the whole Brussels region.

The Véloflic Facebook page, which already has more than 9,200 followers, will now contain images of two-wheelers from all six of the capital’s police zones.

“In practice, stolen bicycles from other zones were already shared on our page, but we have now made this official,” chief inspector Tijl De Groot, who started the page in 2019, said.

Nonetheless, victims of bike theft should still report their loss at a police station or online before using Véloflic, De Groot added, with regular monitoring of the page also recommended.

Véloflic allows the general public to report the theft of their bicycle via a private message. It was launched in response to the rising number of bicycle thefts and low number of reported cases. Police suspect that about 15 bicycle thefts take place in the region every day, but only five are notified.

The Véloflic Facebook page helped the local police return 56 stolen bikes to their owners last year, out of about 300 photos posted on the site, significantly more than the 33 recovered in 2021.

However, this is a drop in the ocean compared to the 1,570 bikes reported stolen to the central police zone in 2022. Even this figure “does not reflect reality as not all victims of bike theft file complaints,” De Groot added, noting that already this year 598 people have signalled the loss of their bicycle.

In an attempt to stamp out bike thieves, the police said it would also use "bait bicycles" placed at theft hotspots in the hope of catching bike thieves in the act.

The bike could also be equipped with a GPS beacon - a device enabling its whereabouts to be communicated to the police remotely - which would mean the police would not have to leave a team on permanent surveillance, De Groot added.

If someone reports a suspicious bike for sale on social media, the police will also sometimes take direct action, posing as a potential buyer and then catch the seller in the act, he said.

This is in addition to a free central bicycle register on which owners can log the details of their bicycle and file a report, as well as check if a second-hand bicycle has been reported as stolen.

De Groot said the number of stolen bikes has skyrocketed since Covid, that there are more thefts in summer than in winter, and that the centre of town, particularly the pedestrianised section, is particularly rife for theft.

Electric bicycles are now the most common targets. De Groot said that the most expensive model stolen around a year ago cost €15,000 – and the owner did not even give its serial number when reporting the crime.

Written by Liz Newmark