View Full Version : Bike Theft

Gas Man
07-29-2009, 06:18 PM
Its specific to Sportbikes but the ideas can be applied univerally.

Long read, but worth it.
The WAR On Sportbike THIEVES
By Michael Gougis
Part 1
The very first “bait bike” sat on the side of a San Diego County freeway for 11 minutes before a thief pulled off to the shoulder and stuffed it into a van. At that point, Detectives Martin Bolger and Anthony Molina knew they were tapping into something important. But what they have uncovered during slightly less than two years of Operation Knee Drag—a multi-jurisdictional task force operation targeting sophisticated sportbike thieves operating in California’s San Diego County—was more than they expected.
Simply put, the two Chula Vista Police Department detectives have been able to bring to light a highly organized community of brazen, sophisticated thieves responsible for hundreds of sportbike thefts in the San Diego region in the last two years. One guy alone stole more than 200 motorcycles. Working with the Regional Auto Theft Task Force, the pair have also been able to learn when the thefts take place, where they take place, and how many of the so-called anti-theft devices on motorcycles and available on the aftermarket do virtually no good whatsoever.
They’ve found out where the stolen bikes go and how the thieves can steal them so quickly. They’ve tried to educate other law enforcement agencies about the problem, and talked to manufacturers about how easily their bikes can be stolen. They’ve found support from some law enforcement agencies, and resistance to dealing with the issue from others—chasing bike thieves is dangerous, and let’s face it, preventing sportbike theft isn’t exactly a high priority for John Q. Public.
But perhaps most importantly, they’ve put together a demonstration and presentation for law enforcement, the media and other interested parties to show the extent of the problem and how to fight it. It’s an uphill climb. There’s not a lot of enthusiasm among police, they said, for a highspeed pursuit through traffic chasing a vehicle that can outrun any cop car. Bolger and Molina brought their show to the Roadracing World offices, along with a trio of late-model sportbikes to demonstrate how easily thieves can make the bikes disappear. They showed us at the office, in simple detail, how to steal them—and then let us try it ourselves. And it worked. As a (generally) law-abiding citizen, it is staggering and somewhat nauseating to follow a few simple directions—cut this cable, twist these wires, unplug this and plug in that—and realize that I now have the ability to walk up to virtually any sportbike, anywhere, and ride it away in less than a minute.
This article will talk about the thieves, their activities, and how to protect your bike from them.
Bolger is a longtime sportbike rider; his first was one of the original Honda Hurricanes. He and Molina were members of the regional task force, luring car thieves into trying to fence their stolen goods through them. Once they bought the stolen cars, of course, the thieves would be arrested.
What they noticed in mid-2007 was that their thieves were bringing them an increasing number of late-model sportbikes. At the same time, State Farm Insurance’s special investigations unit had contacted Bolger, saying that their payouts for stolen sportbikes were surging. Statistics show that during that period, San Diego County had about the same number of motorcycles stolen as Los Angeles County, which has a population that is three times larger.
“We noticed that a lot of criminals were bringing us sportbikes, and State Farm was asking us to do something,” Bolger says. “I said, before I do anything, I want to look at statistics. I want to…get a feel for the real situation in San Diego County.”
From 2000 to 2005, motorcycle thefts went up 27% a year, and Bolger says that while California had a 41% recovery rate, San Diego County’s recovery rate was 27%. And when it came specifically to sportbikes, the recovery rate was down to less than 12%.
“Looking at all those thefts, we decided that there really was a motorcycle theft problem,” Bolger says.
So they talked to their superiors, but had to do some convincing. Imagine trying to convince your law enforcement agency to cough up money to repair a salvaged sportbike to make it attractive enough to lure a thief into trying to steal it.
“The start of this whole operation was very difficult,” Bolger says. “Imagine the potential liability to a supervisor. Your detectives come to you and say hey, we want to start a motorcycle operation. We want to get sportbikes, ride ’em around, do undercover stuff. And how do you convince your boss that you need a couple thousand dollars to fix up a bait bike?
“You should have seen the reaction. It was basically hell no—you guys are crazy. You’d watch their heads explode. But we did a lot of trying to get over some of those issues. And eventually they took a leap of faith in us—and I applaud them for it. When they see who they are really dealing with (organized gangs), that’s when we get the thumbs-up.”
One of the first ideas they came up with was the “bait bike”—a late-model sportbike left on the side of a freeway. As noted, the first bike was stolen in 11 minutes. Fortunately, officers from the task force swooped in and grabbed the bike and the thieves.
And so they started their infiltration of the sportbike theft community in San Diego County.
Part 2
This is what they found:
First, only an amateur thief will resort to punching out an ignition lock. The three most commonly stolen sportbikes—Suzuki GSX-R, Yamaha YZFR6 and Honda CBR, 600 and 1000s alike—can be stolen quickly with virtually no visible physical damage to the motorcycle. Damaging a motorcycle while stealing it reduces its resale value and makes the thief less money.
It does not take sophisticated tools to steal a modern sportbike. An R6 can be stolen with an Allen wrench and knowledge of the wiring system—and that’s only if the thief wants to spend the 45 seconds unscrewing the necessary body panel, instead of just breaking it off in a second or two. Most of the stolen motorcycles are ridden away from the scene. While more and more thieves are using “shoeboxes”— slang for any vehicle that can hide a bike—to transport their stolen booty, the majority are simply ridden off. And once the engine has started, the motor cycle is gone—end of story.
Many agencies have restrictions on pursuits that make it virtually impossible to catch a truly committed thief who will not pull over. And if having a motorcycle stolen is bad, having an officer or bystander killed while trying to recover that bike is infinitely worse.
In San Diego County, stolen bikes go straight across the border. Once into Mexico, the thieves—operating with some of Mexico’s most sophisticated criminal organizations—are paid between $500 and $2000 for each bike. The motorcycles are crated and shipped into the interior of Mexico, or elsewhere into Central or South America. Or their VINs are changed and they are brought back into the U.S. to be re-sold. (Incidentally, the technology for changing VINs has improved dramatically, and it is extremely diffi cult to detect an altered VIN—or Vehicle Identification Number—merely by looking.)
The thieves themselves have a tight-knit community throughout which information about how to steal—“rip” is the slang term—motorcycles is disseminated. Among that community, great care is taken to make it as difficult as possible to track down the thieves. For example, Bolder and Molina said, in one group (they have identified about 144 operating thieves in San Diego County, working in about 55 groups) they use cash-andcarry mobile phones to communicate with each other. Every week, the phones are changed, so tracking phone calls is difficult.
Most thefts occur during normal business hours. In part, this is because that is when most motorcycles are accessible to thieves. The hardest bike to steal is one that’s in a locked personal garage. Few of us get to lock our bikes in places like that during business hours. “Secured” garages at work usually aren’t; The guards usu- ally aren’t patrolling to catch a thief in the act of starting the bike, and once it’s started, the theft is complete. Thieves exchange information about where to hit; which apartment complexes, which garages. They rarely just go out to steal any old motorcycle. But a good thief can see a target of opportunity and, using a cell phone, stand right next to a targeted bike while on the phone with the buyer. If the buyer’s interested, the theft can happen right then. Some thieves keep the necessary tools on them at all times—and unless an officer knows what to look for, the tools will appear completely innocent. (By the way, rashed-up bodywork makes a motorcycle less attractive to you, but it’s also less attractive to the sophisticated thief.)

Gas Man
07-29-2009, 06:18 PM
Part 3
Here are some of the things that Bolger and Molina found did very little to even slow a thief:
Ignition (a.k.a. fork or steering) locks: The stainless-steel pin that extends from the ignition lock into a boss on an aluminum frame can be easily defeated by yanking on the handlebars, (breaking the pin out of the aluminum boss) and when the bad guys do defeat it, the frame headstock is damaged. The locked ignition may deter some thieves. But if it doesn’t, even if you get your bike back, it has damage that requires a frame replacement to properly rectify. This makes your insurance company nuts.
Cable locks: You may as well have “warm butter” securing your wheels, Molina says. Most padlocks: There are very few that can stand up to a 42-inch bolt cutter. There are a few, particularly some Kryptonite locks, that will; most others will give up on the first attempt.
GPS and locating devices: As motorcycles get smaller and smaller, there are fewer and fewer places to hide such devices. So the thieves know where to look; as one thief told a task force member about a stolen bike, “It doesn’t have a LoJack. I checked all three places.” And when the task force began operating, thieves would steal bikes and park them in locations near the U.S.-Mexico border for a couple of days to see if law enforcement was able to track the motorcycle down. “They would tell the crooks, do not ever bring me a fresh-stolen motorcycle. I don’t want Tijuana police coming into my business,” Bolger says fences told thieves.
However, a little more than a year ago, one of Mexico’s major crime cartels demanded a piece of the motorcycle theft industry’s proceeds. In exchange, the cartel protected the chop shops from law enforcement. “Because of that, everything changed. Now we rarely see a GPS ping in San Diego. Now, when a motorcycle is stolen, it goes right across the border,” Bolger says. “Mexican law enforcement now is having a very tough time. Police officers, chiefs of police, they’re all getting killed. They’re not interested in trying to recover stolen motorcycles. They could die. It’s not worth it to them. We see motorcycle (GPS) pings there in Tijuana all the time.”

Part 4
Here are some ways to detect stolen motorcycles and those who are stealing them:
Bypassed ignition: A stolen motorcycle—one with a defeated ignition—is usually operating without a key. If a motorcycle is being refueled with its headlight on, ask: How is the headlight on when the key was needed to open the gas tank? Answer: The ignition was bypassed. Stolen GSX-Rs have a “pigtail”—a secondary, prepared bypassed ignition that usually is found lying along the left side of the fairing. That is a clear indication that the bike is stolen. Stolen YZF-R6 Yamahas have a missing black beauty panel under the left clip-on.
Unusual helmet: Thieves often use whatever helmet is available. So it is not unusual to see stolen motorcycles with a rider wearing a dirtbike helmet. Bike thieves also tend to steal helmets merely by cutting off the strap from a helmet lock. So if the chin strap is flapping in the breeze, it should be a warning sign for law enforcement.
No license plate: Motorcycles without license plates being transported in the back of a pickup truck could be suspicious. A sportbike on its side in a pickup truck bed is a big red flag.
Part 5
The best way to keep your motorcycle yours is to be creative. Install a kill switch, but hide it somewhere that it cannot be easily found. And use multiple lay ers of security; locks, alarms, and locating devices work best when used together. Consider buying a cheapo cell phone and popping for the GPS monitoring feature. A thief may overlook a cell phone as a potential tracking device. The best bet is to scare off the thief before he or she decides to steal your bike. Again, once the bike is started, it’s gone. The odds of getting it back, in useable condition, are not good.
The task force has had some significant successes. In 2008, sportbike thefts in San Diego County dropped nearly 20%. And some of the most prolific thieves have been put out of business. Word has gotten out among the thieves that the modern sportbike that’s just sitting there, looking like it’s too easy to steal, just might be one of the team’s “bait bikes,” and the minute they start trying to steal it, they’ll be taken down.
Perhaps the most significant impact of Operation Knee Drag, however, might be the increased awareness of the crime. Bolger and Molina said they have been working hard to educate their law enforcement counterparts, and for good reason. If law enforcement isn’t aware of the problem, little will be done to fight it. The pair have video of a clueless patrol officer pulling up behind a stolen bike in a gas station (the officer’s not really clueless, task force members are broadcasting the bike has been stolen) and then just watching as the thief gets back on the bike, starts it and rides off. The officer didn’t know what to do, or what to look for.
It’s an incredibly tempting crime. Law enforcement is relatively unaware of how it takes place and isn’t enthusiastic about chasing a highspeed missile through traffic across an international border. The bad guys know that the rewards are high, the risks low. The best solution is prevention. RW What To Watch Out For
(Or, How The Bad Guys Are Stealing Your Bikes)
Based on what we found, we made the editorial decision to illustrate how simple it is to bypass the ignition on many late-model sport bikes. We’re not doing it to help the thieves; they already know how to do it. And what we’re publishing is well-known among many racers (who remove keyed ignition switches from racebikes routinely) and mechanics.
Our purpose here is to push the motorcycle manufacturers into re-thinking the anti-theft systems on their bikes. Some changes would be simple and virtually free; relocating some wires or plugs would help significantly. And sometimes it would simply be a matter of incorporating some anti-theft devices that are installed on the same models sold elsewhere in the world, like immobilizer systems that must match a chip in the key with a chip in the ignition black box before the bike will start. Yes, it may raise the price of the U.S. model. But it may also lower the insurance premiums.
Lastly, what you see here will help you identify a bike that has had the ignition bypassed. As a racer, the need for cheap parts is obvious. But buying stolen parts hurts everyone in the motorcycling community, and buying parts from a stolen racebike is unconscionable. If it seems too good to be true…

Gas Man
07-29-2009, 06:19 PM
Part 6
Ignition Steering Lock (All Makes)
Engaging the ignition steering lock pushes a stainless steel pin into a boss or depression on the steering head of the frame, thus preventing the bars from turning. However, the pin usu ally does not protrude deeply into the boss or depression on the head stock, the aluminum frame material is not hardened and the fit of the pin into the steering head stock is not precise, allowing the bars to move slightly, even with the pin engaged. By standing in front of the bike, grabbing the left handlebar, placing your right foot on the left peg for leverage and yanking (pulling) the bar to the right, you can force the hardened pin to shear through the boss or depression on the steering head. Potential solution: Redesign the ignition steering lock to engage the frame at a different location, or harden the boss on the head stock where the pin is inserted.
Ignition Bypass (Honda CBR600RR And CBR1000R) These models of Honda sportbikes have a pair of wires heading into the ignition; some years the wires are on the left, others on the right. In either case, the wires (usually encased in plastic tubing) can quickly be cut, stripped and twisted together, at which point the electrical system of the motorcycle comes alive. A push on the starter button starts the engine. Potential quick solution: Re-route the wires so they are not accessible, or include an immobilizer-type device in the circuit.
Ignition Bypass (Suzuki GSX-R) Suzuki uses the same ignition lock assembly interchangeably on its GSX-R sportbikes from year to year and model to model; for example, the part number for the lock assembly is the same for the 2007 and 2008 GSX-R1000, and is the same for the 600cc, 750cc and 1000cc versions of 2008 GSX-R sportbikes. The lock is attached to the wiring harness via a plug positioned over the radiator, and it is easily accessible by hand from the outside of the bike. Thieves merely arrive at the target bike with an ignition lock assembly from another GSX-R (with the key already in the lock and set to the run position) and unplug the ignition on the bike. They plug in the pre-set ignition and the bike fires. Potential quick solution: Relocate the connecting plug elsewhere on the bike. Tucking it well up under the tank would make it significantly harder to reach and would slow down the ignition swap. Or include an immobilizer-type device in the circuit.
Ignition Bypass (Yamaha YZF-R6) The Yamaha YZF-R6 has two pairs of wires that usually run under the black bodywork panel under the left clip-on. The wires are connected via quick-disconnect plugs to the ignition lock assembly. Thieves typically take the 30 seconds or so required to remove the bodywork panel without damaging it—it’s a matter of unscrewing two Allen bolts, and an undamaged bike brings more money when sold—and disconnect the two plugs. Thieves trade among themselves a pre-bypassed set of the plugs that, stock, are wired into the ignition. By cutting a set of the plugs off an ignition lock, twisting the pairs of wires together, and plugging the bypassed plugs into the wiring harness, the ignition is bypassed. The target bike will then start. This is, incidentally, exactly what the racing harness for the R6 does, and it is commonly known among R6 racers that this method can allow the racer or track-day rider to remove the keyed ignition lock. Potential solution: Once again, re-route the wires so they are harder to access, and put the plugs someplace where they cannot be reached quickly. Or include an immobilizer-type device in the circuit. RW

If the steering lock pin tears through the head stock, the only real fix involves replacing the frame on the motorcycle. Photo courtesy San Diego County Regional Auto Theft Task Force.
Spotted at a local college parking lot: A brace of nicely customized GSX-Rs, no locks on the wheels, no alarms; hidden from sight of the main campus by a huge shipping container. Working in relative seclusion, it would take a couple of prepared thieves less than a minute to ride off with both of these. Photo by Michael Gougis.
Even easier to tear through is a raised boss for the steering lock, as shown on this Honda CBR1000RR. Photo by Brian Bourgeois.
Typical tools of the trade: Helmet law in California means the bad guys carry a helmet with them on heists. For many bikes, the wirecutters and the electrical tape are all that are necessary to get them started. Photo by Michael Gougis.
Locks deter the amateur thief. But most locks can be defeated, if through nothing other than brute force. Here a motorcycle lock’s remnants were found in a minivan used to transport a stolen motorcycle. Photo courtesy San Diego County Regional Auto Theft Task Force.
For a Yamaha YZF-R6, these two plugs are the ones that need to be short-circuited. It can take a moment or two, so the bad guys come to the crime scene armed with a set of short-circuited connectors. If they’re in a real hurry, the bad guys will just rip off the bodywork piece that covers these plugs; most of the time, though, the better the shape the bodywork is in, the more the bike will fetch on the stolen goods market.

07-31-2009, 01:08 PM
Good post...

These bastards thiefs... hope they get run over on a stolen bike.