Motorcycle thefts throttling down
Fewer Americans are swiping motorcycles, part of the overall trend in reduced vehicle thefts across the country.
Motorcycle thefts have declined 24 percent, from 65,678 bikes reported stolen in 2007 to 49,791 in 2010, according to the nonprofit National Insurance Crime Bureau.
A number of factors are contributing to the decline in motorcycle thefts, including a decrease in sales and fewer new models produced, industry experts say. The California-based Motorcycle Industry Council reports that sales were down 16 percent between 2009 (521,876 motorcycles) and 2010 (439,678 motorcycles).
Plus, in tight economic times, some owners tend to be more protective.
|Although motorcycle thefts are declining, Honda bikes are still a popular target. More than 12,000 of them were stolen in 2010.|
“People tend to watch a little closer what they already have,” says Imre Szauter, government affairs manager for the American Motorcyclist Association, based in Pickerington, Ohio. “They realize that, hey, if this gets stolen, I might not be able to replace it.”
If you have a comprehensive motorcycle insurance policy, you can file a claim with an insurer to replace the bike (it’s unlikely it will be recovered), but that may not include any customization you’ve done to the bike. There’s also a correlation between claim activity and insurance premiums.
“If there’s an awful lot of motorcycle thefts in a certain area and you come be-bopping in with a brand new bike … you’re going to be paying more,” says Frank Scafidi, spokesman for the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
As thefts creep down, there’s more good news: Depending on the claim activity where you live, your premium could decline.
Honda is hot commodity
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the five most common motorcycles stolen, representing about 78 percent of total thefts in 2010, were:
• Honda — 12,260.
• Yamaha — 9,853.
• Suzuki — 7,869.
• Kawasaki — 5,470.
• Harley-Davidson — 3,301.
“You see many more Hondas on the road,” Scafidi says. “With the more of a particular make that are out and in operation year round, the more likely those will become theft targets.”
In June 2011, Steve Harris discovered his white 2007 Honda CBR 600RR had been stolen from his front yard in Athens, Ga. He didn’t have a garage or carport to tuck away his sport bike when he wasn’t riding it. He called the police to report the theft of the motorcycle, which he bought in September 2010.
“I figured if I did see it again, I would be picking it up in a Hefty bag, in pieces,” he said
But Harris was one of the lucky ones.
The police called him a day after he reported it stolen, gave him the address of a home and told him to bring his helmet. When Harris arrived, Harris counted a dozen “crotch rockets,” or small sport bikes with high horsepower, under the carport, plus cars in the yard. His motorcycle was in the basement, with the tag already removed and a frame beside it, ready for his parts.
“I got on my bike and got to ride it out of there right in front of the people who had stolen it,” he says.
The thieves were in the driveway, surrounded by cops. When Harris left, he thought: “You’re going to jail, and I’m going for a ride.”
California tops the charts
Warm-weather states and months top the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s list of motorcycle thefts in 2010:
• California — 5,662.
• Texas — 4,394.
• Florida — 4,148.
• North Carolina — 2,649.
• Indiana — 1,925.
In addition, more bikes were stolen in July 2010, with 5,714, followed by 5,380 thefts in August 2010. Thieves lay off in the colder months, with the fewest thefts in December (2,763) and February (2,403).
During colder months or in Northern states, bikes are secured in garages more often, Scafidi says. The most common hours for motorcycle thefts are between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., according to LoJack, which sells a motorcycle security system through authorized motorcycle dealers.
Groups such as the American Motorcyclist Association are trying to make owners more aware of how to prevent theft. Bikes kept in yards, driveways and condo and apartment parking lots should be covered, which can keep them hidden from thieves, Szauter says.
The California-based Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends:
• Locking your ignition and removing the key. Most bike thefts occur when the ignition is shut off, but not locked.
• Locking the forks or disc brakes with locks that have large, brightly colored tags.