By John Ensor •
Published: 02 Sep 2023 • 19:52
Bikes recovered by bike Patrol.
Credit: Ilkka Pulkkinen/Facebook.com
A bicycle-mad city in Finland which has a huge problem with bike thefts has its own amateur detectives working hard to reunite stolen bikes with their owners.
In a city called Oulu, 100 miles south of the Arctic Circle, where bike theft has reached massive proportions, Ilkka Pulkkinen and his volunteer group, Bike Patrols, are the people to contact, even gaining praise from the police, writes the BBC.
This city, a cycling utopia with over 1,000km of pristine bike paths, is grappling with a rampant bike theft problem, with many of them being stolen by drug dealers. Despite 77 per cent of its 200,000 residents cycling in the summer and 42 per cent in the winter, 1,738 bike thefts were reported last year.
Ilkka Pulkkinen founded Bike Patrols after his friend’s bike was stolen. ‘It all started last September when my friend’s bike was stolen,’ Ilkka recalls. ‘People gave me tips in the comments and we found it very quickly. It was almost too easy.’ The group has since recovered 1,298 stolen bikes, using social media and community tips to locate them.
Ilkka and his team have identified common locations where stolen bikes often end up. ‘People told us where bikes disappeared from. We checked out each location and slowly figured out where stolen bikes ended up in different parts of the city,’ he says. They also monitor known handover spots for stolen bikes, often beating the thieves to the punch.
The police appreciate the group’s efforts. ‘We’re not jealous of them,’ says Detective Superintendent Janne Koskela. ‘They do a good job.’ The group has even fished out 300 bikes from the sea, although most were unidentifiable and sent to scrap.
Olivia Hamalainen, a 19-year-old volunteer, sees Bike Patrols as an inspiration. ‘We’ve also created a community,’ she says, ‘which is very important where many people say they don’t have friends.’
Ilkka spends up to five hours a day on his bike, covering more than 500km a week. ‘I just want to help people get their bikes back. The best thing is that people know we’re here and we’ll come before the police can come,’ he proudly states.
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
When he's not writing for EWN he enjoys gigging in a acoustic duo, looking after their four dogs, four chickens, two cats, and cycling up mountains very slowly.
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