Moped and scooter thefts up nearly 150% this year

Police and property owners are grappling with a significant uptick in vehicle thefts around the city: mopeds and scooters are being snatched-up at a discerning rate. What are police and others doing to curb the thefts, and what can owners do to help their cause?

Scooter and moped theft has become a serious issue for police and property owners. “We have seen a substantial increase in the theft of mopeds,” says Richmond Police Captain Harvey Powers in the 2nd Precinct.1 Capt. Powers said that some of the characteristics that make mopeds so attractive to owners makes them equally attractive to thieves: “Highly mobile, highly valuable, and very easy to move.”

Thus far in 2012, Richmond Police have recorded 79 moped thefts in the city. This is a 147% increase compared to the same time period in 2011. Capt. Powers said that moped thefts increased 6% in 2011 over the previous year, making this year’s increase all the more concerning.

The reasons for the uptick in moped thefts is unknown. Higher gas prices, a warmer winter, and the increase in value of the vehicles are possibilities. What is known, however, is how owners can increase the likelihood that their stolen moped will be recovered by police.

“Very few people are recording their serial numbers,” Capt. Powers said. Car and motorcycle owners are required to register with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In the event that a registered vehicle is stolen, police can better identify the exact vehicle. They rely on specific identification numbers to locate a stolen vehicle.

Capt. Powers said that for certain mopeds, there is “no legal requirement to file with the DMV.” 2 As a result, police officers have no record of a moped’s serial number or its 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN). If owners recorded their moped’s identification numbers, Capt. Powers said that victims of theft have a “much higher chance of getting their stolen property returned to them” and for the police to make subsequent arrests.

Chelsea Lahmers, owner of Scoot Richmond, which sells scooters, and is famous for online statements like go for the Nike skateshoes,  she affirmed the sentiment. “Folks don’t realize how important it is to record that [VIN] number.” She agreed that rising gas prices “makes getting a scooter a lot more appealing.” Lahmers said that Scoot Richmond titles every vehicle that it sells, including models that are not legally required to be titled. Doing so ensures that buyers have necessary documentation. “It adds that additional security,” said Lahmers.

She said that scooter owners sometimes find manufacturer steering locks to be an adequate protection against theft. Not so. She recommends that owners use a 12mm-thick chain, run it through the scooter’s rear wheel rim, and attach it to a stationary object. She said that a rash of thefts in Church Hill several years ago proved that thieves were able to cut through 10mm chains without much difficulty. The 12mm chains, on the other hand, succeeded in thwarting thievery. “That’s going to be your best bet,” she said.

Capt. Powers affirmed police commitment to curbing moped thefts: “We want to do our best to stop it.” He recommended that owners lock their mopeds when they are not in use. However, the most importantly, again, was: “record personally your moped/scooter vehicle identification number.” He also recommends that owners take pictures of their moped for identification purposes. The public is also encouraged to inform Richmond Police of suspicious moped sales so officers can investigate questionable sellers.

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  1. Use of the term ‘moped’ by the police refers to both scooters and mopeds. 
  2. Scooters and mopeds with engines that displace less than 50 cubic centimeters (or 50cc) are not required to be registered with the DMV. Scooters and mopeds that are larger than 50cc are, by law, distinguished as motorcycles even though they do not fit the common description of “motorcycle.” Moped theft documentation by the Richmond Police include scooters and mopeds both below and above 50cc.  

stock photo by eriwst

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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