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Police to impose €250 spot fines on bike thieves from 2022
Every day around 230 bicycles are reported stolen in Belgium. The actual figure is likely to be even higher as police believe that many thefts go unreported. The problem is so prevalent in Brussels that the police have a special unit which includes undercover officers who patrol known hot spots.
However, despite the efforts being taken to prevent bicycle theft, the authorities have long complained that the justice system doesn’t do enough to punish the offenders, with more serious crimes taking priority. The lack of punishment is often cited as a reason why victims rarely report the theft of their bikes, believing that it would be a waste of time to do so.
In a bid to address this, justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne announced earlier this week that police will impose an immediate fine of €250 on bicycle thieves they catch in the act from 1 January 2022. The fine will be collected either immediately via Bancontact or a QR Code, or by bank transfer within 15 days, in addition to having to return the bike and pay any damages.
"The advantage of this system is that 'petty' crime is punished quickly and without overburdening the police and the judiciary,” a statement from the justice ministry said. “Currently, when a bicycle is stolen and the thief is caught in the act, the police must first question the suspect, in the presence or not of his lawyer, before the public prosecutor initiates proceedings."
Repeat offenders and organised gangs will not be given an immediate fine but will be prosecuted and will appear in court due to the more serious nature of their crimes.
Around 30 bicycle thieves have been arrested while committing the crime in Brussels since the turn of the year. To avoid having your bicycle stolen, the police suggest using more than one type of lock to secure it.
"Everything breaks, everything can be cut, everything can be grinded. In fact, the only thing which will vary is the resistance time of the padlock in question,” said Guy Cormont, commissioner of the Brussels-Ixelles police zone – which reports on average five bicycle thefts a day.
“If we have one piece of advice to give, it is to multiply the difficulties, that is to say to multiply the obstacles that the thief will have to overcome. Combining a U-lock and a chain, for example, will force the thief to use two different tools. A difficulty that will probably push them to favour another target.”