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The Peddler had four bikes stolen, a loss estimated at $15,000, stolen on Thursday morning. (Reddit)

At 3 a.m. Thursday morning, a group of thieves tied a strap from their truck to the doors of The Peddler, a bike shop on 5015 Duval St., and tried to pull the doors off the building, witnesses told Austin police. When the strap broke, they drove the truck through the door and stole at least four bikes worth at least $15,000 total, management said.

The break-in was the fifth time the store has been hit since the start of 2021, according to owner AJ Camp, who said the constant burglaries have left him with $75,000 worth of losses, of which his insurance has only covered $20,000.

"Before 2021—16 years of business—I've never once had a problem," Camp said. "It just keeps on happening. I'm waking up at night and can't sleep and I feel like I need to come down to the store, but I have kids. I can't just leave my kids to go sleep at my bike shop."

Camp is just one of many victims of a bicycle burglary spree that is sweeping across not only Austin but the entire state, according to local reports. Cycle Progression, Mellow Johnny's, Kyle Cyclery, Monkey Wrench, Buda Bike Co., Velorangutan and Trek Bicycle tell Austonia they have all been hit, many of them multiple times.

The biking industry has already been experiencing product shortages due to the pandemic, driving up prices. The carbon fiber wheels on one bike stolen from The Peddler were worth $2,000, Camp said.

With a family to take care of and stomaching a loss of around $50,000, Camp is one of many shop owners in various Facebook groups who say they are considering armoring up and sleeping in their stores to prevent further burglaries.

Velorangutan owner Wesley Hayslip said after two organized break-ins at his store, 3924 Woodbury Drive, he has friends who have offered to guard the store in shifts. Hayslip said he is out thousands of dollars and in the process of having bars put on his front door.

Owners believe the crimes are connected, but their suspicion remains unconfirmed. Hayslip said some people in forums have found their bikes for sale in Monterrey, Mexico.

"I knew it was coming because I had been watching the other shops getting broken into—there's an email chain," Hayslip said. "It's bigger than the guys that are breaking into the store, you know, there's a bigger organization going on."

Joe Ender, owner of North Lamar shop Monkey Wrench Bicycle Repair, said he has been forced to close his doors for good due to a combination of rising rent, three break-ins and high deductible costs for repairs. One break-in, when thieves stole three bikes, cost him $25,000. The store is open until the end of the month.

"It's affecting people's livelihoods," Ender said. "Eventually somebody is going to get tired of spending money on security and locks and bolting bikes to the floor and hiding bikes at their house and having to move them in and out every day just for somebody to defeat those things and continue to destroy property and rip doors off of buildings."

Monkey Wrench is one of many bike shops dealing with major theft. (Joe Ender/Facebook)

The three owners say they see little action from Austin police, whose average response time for urgent and emergency calls remain more than a minute longer than the citywide target, according to a recent APD presentation. Austin police officials attribute the slow response times to staffing shortages, which predate City Council's decision to defund the department last August.

Both Hayslip and Ender reported that they were able to make it to their stores faster than police on at least one occasion. "I live just right here in this area. (There) used to be a presence of APD (and now) you see nobody around to prevent it, and businesses being broken into and the rise of gun violence and stabbings and stupid stuff going on in our no-longer-town."


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