But with the boldness of bicycle thieves these days, it didn't seem to matter where Mrs. Gibson kept the two-wheeler. Her daughter's bike was stolen 10 days later from behind her shed in a fenced-in area of the back yard.
Neighborhood children told her they saw a teen-ager jump her fence in broad daylight, grab the bike, throw it over the fence and take off with it.
"I can't stay here and guard this stuff all the time," a frustrated Mrs. Gibson said.
Police say bicycles have been stolen for decades. But thieves seem to be bolder these days, breaking into businesses, walking into carports, even stealing them while the owners are home. Consider:Twenty-six bicycles were missing from Augusta Urban Ministries when an employee came to work June 21. A deputy found that a window had been taken out of the building and a wire cage torn out.
In Richmond County, there were 300 reports of stolen bicycles in 2001, according to Keith McGarity, crime analyst with the sheriff's office. In the first six months of this year, there have been 152 reports.
"It's getting to the point in this day and time that you can't leave anything out in the open anymore," property crimes Sgt. Jimmy Vowell said. "You've got to lock things up."
Lillian Gibson locks up bikes in the back yard of her home in Hephzibah. Thieves stole her son's bike and 10 days later stole her daughter's bike from a shed in broad daylight.
ANDREW DAVIS TUCKER/STAFF|
In rare cases, police are able to recover the bicycles or make arrests.
After burglars removed the glass from Andy Jordan's Bicycle Warehouse and took off with six bicycles in early June, Richmond County investigators arrested two men they said they found riding the $330 bikes.
In most cases, however, bicycles that are stolen and later abandoned cannot be traced to their owners because the owners never recorded serial numbers. The bikes eventually are given to charities, Sgt. Vowell said.
In other cases, the thieves alter the appearance with spray paint or use the bike for parts.
In North Augusta, bikes have turned up missing all over town this summer. A public safety officer recently spotted a juvenile on a bike that was reported stolen and confronted the teen.
"He admitted that it was stolen and admitted to stealing six other bikes," Detective Tim Thornton said. Two juveniles were charged with larceny of bicycles, he said.
"They were just stealing them, riding them around and selling them to other kids in the neighborhood," Detective Thornton said.
But he said bicycle thefts can be prevented.
"Bikes are easily taken, and they are hard to identify because they all look alike. Don't leave them out, even if you live in a house with a chain-link fence," he said.
Mrs. Gibson learned that lesson the hard way. Since the theft of her children's bikes, she has taken the bikes used by her and her husband and locked them to a solid metal gatepost in her back yard.
"If they want these," she said, "they are going to have to work hard for them."
Police say you should take a few precautions to prevent bicycle thefts: