|A recovered Divvy bike sits in the back of a Chicago police SUV.|
As the operators of Chicago’s Divvy bike-sharing program prepare to enter their third month of battling widespread theft of the system’s taxpayer-owned bicycles, Chicago Police Department and Cook County Criminal Court records are shedding light on just how serious the problem has become.
Since July 1st, arrests of adults in possession of stolen Divvy bikes have led Chicago police officers to recover 2% of the system’s fleet, according to an analysis of the records by CWBChicago.
There is no way of tracking the number of additional bikes recovered from juvenile offenders because those records are shielded from public review.
Despite the known theft issue, the exact number of Divvy bikes stolen and still at-large is a complete mystery. The system operator is only required to report its inventory count to the city once per year—on October 1st. Chicago’s system had 6,054 bikes last October 1st, according to the city. And only 38 bikes were “missing” on that day.
A conversation with one Divvy valet worker this month revealed that he had been told 20% of the company’s fleet has gone missing during the theft surge. A spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment about the employee’s claim.
CWBChicago reported first on the system’s theft outbreak on July 12th, revealing that thieves had found a simple way to manipulate bikes out of docking stations.
Divvy stated at the time that its workers were “retrofitting all of our docks with stronger, more tamper-proof lock mechanisms” due to theft.
But there is no sign that the thefts are slowing down.
Through August 16th, Chicago cops have arrested 57 adults this month for possessing stolen Divvy bikes, putting the month on-pace to see 101 such arrests. There were 63 adult arrests for possessing stolen Divvy bikes in July, but only five in June when the theft surge began.
|Locations were adults were arrested for possessing a stolen Divvy bike|
Since July 1st, cops have recovered over 120 stolen Divvy bikes worth more than $144,000 from adults who were charged with possessing the baby blue rides.
When the Chicago Tribune published a brief article about Divvy’s challenges on July 30th, the paper quoted an unnamed police official as saying that “there have been four reported Divvy bike thefts in the last two weeks.”
In truth, four adults were arrested for possessing stolen Divvy bikes on July 30th alone, according to court records.
And Chicago Police Department records show that 33 adults were arrested and charged with possessing stolen Divvy bikes during that two-week time period. Again, that number only includes adults, not juveniles, and only counts bikes that were recovered—not those that are still on the loose.
Meanwhile, social media outlets continue to hint at the true extent of the Divvy theft problem.
Some thieves have decided to paint their stolen Divvy bikes to look less suspicious. Like this one found on 79th Street:
Here, a Facebook user tries to sell a Divvy bike for $70.
And here, another Divvy is offered for $150.
Here, an apparent ride-sharing enthusiast sells loose cigarettes on an L train:
@DivvyBikes I called for you to check on some potentially stolen bikes and three hours later, they're still there. 1466 S Wabash Ave. One locked to its own wheel, the other to a fence and another bike pic.twitter.com/TmbBLFgoeP— Ernesto (@ErnestoLube) August 1, 2018