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Motorcycle security: Survey of theft victims in South Australia

Published: December 2015

Reducing motorcycle theft risk has some unique challenges. For example:

  • Unsecured motorcycles can be quickly wheeled away without being started.
  • Lighter motorcycles such as scooters can be lifted by one person into a van.
  • Unlike modern passenger vehicles that have self-arming engine immobilisers, many motorcycles:
    • need the physical intervention of the rider to use common security such as a chain, disc lock or an alarm switch;
    • are stolen without requiring any keys.

This report summarises a motorcycle theft victim survey that assessed:

  1. owner awareness of theft issues;
  2. the use of security practises; and
  3. security behaviour changes after theft.
Method and respondent profile

A total of 723 people who reported a motorcycle theft to South Australia (SA) Police between 1 January 2014 and 31 August 2014 were invited to complete a survey. The invite was sent by the Crime Prevention Coordination Unit of SA Police in late October 2014.

The survey about motorcycle security and their recent theft experience was designed by CARS. It had a maximum of 35 questions and respondents could complete the survey online, as a hard copy with reply paid envelope or by phone. There was a 26 percent response rate, with 186 responses received. Assuming a 95 percent confidence level, the overall margin of error was 7 percent.

Respondent profile

  • 82 percent of respondents were male and 18 percent female.
  • The age distribution of respondents was:
    25 years and under16.9
    25 - 34 years19.1
    35 - 44 years18
    45 - 54 years21.3
    55+ years24.6
  • Type of motorcycle stolen:
    On-road55
    Scooter/Moped32.4
    Sports/Super Sports12.4
    Cruisers/Choppers3.8
    Touring/Sports Touring2.7
    Standard/Commuter3
    Adventure Touring1.1
    Off-road45
    Trail/Off-road22.2
    Moto cross/Super Motard9.7
    ATVs and Farm8.6
    Fun/Mini bikes4.3
  • Length of ownership of the bike before it was stolen:
    Less than 6 months15.2
    Between 6 months and less than 1 year19.6
    Between 1 year and less than 2 years15.2
    Between 2 years and less than 3 years13
    Between 3 years and less than 5 years18.5
    Between 5 years and less than 10 years14.7
    10 years or more3.8
  • 50 percent of respondents indicated their bike has since been recovered.
  • 17 percent of victims had suffered a previous motorcycle theft, including 4 percent who had the bike included in this study stolen previously.

Key findings

Owner awareness of theft issues

  • Theft victims generally believed the risk of motorcycle theft to be likely or extremely likely.
  • Theft victims under estimated the risk of theft from the home. Motorcycles were reported by victims as stolen from the residence in 73 percent of cases, yet when asked about the most likely theft location only 47 percent said at home. A further 26 percent said street/footpath and 18 percent said car park.
  • Theft victims had their motorcycle recovered in 50 percent of cases. Generally, they were even more pessimistic about the likelihood of a stolen motorcycle being recovered.
  • The perceived effectiveness of various security practises was varied. For example, steering locks were considered extremely or very effective by 32 percent of victims and 64 percent believed parking in a locked shed or garage was very effective.

Security practises

  • One in eight theft victims did not regularly use security to protect their bike from theft. Some also knew little about the range of security devices available.
  • Before theft, the most regular security practise used was parking in a locked shed or garage (46 percent), engaging the bike steering lock (46 percent) and a chain with lock (22 percent). Devices such as disc locks (14 percent), disc locks with alarm (3 percent), an alarm by itself (3 percent) and tracking devices (0 percent) were used less.
  • At time of theft, a fifth (21 percent) of victims had no security practices in place. When they were in use, their level of usage was lower than their reported regular use. For example, 23 percent of thefts were from a locked shed or garage, yet 46 percent said it was a regular practise.

Security behaviour changes after theft

  • After theft, 36 percent of victims completely stopped riding a motorcycle.
  • The regular use of all types of security practises increased after theft for those that continued to ride.
  • There was some discordance between the perceived effectiveness of various security practises and their regular usage after theft. For example, a disc lock with alarm was considered extremely or very effective by 61 percent of victims, yet only 6 percent regularly used one after theft.
  • Fifty one percent of theft victims were prepared to spend more than $100 on a security device, with 27 percent prepared to spend over $200. Eighteen percent said they were unlikely to spend any money on a security device, either because they had insurance cover or thought nothing could prevent a bike from being stolen.
  • Theft victims would like more anchor points in public parking areas and the use of high quality security cameras where bikes are parked. They would like pressure on manufacturers/distributors to fit tracking devices as a standard feature.

Detailed findings

Owner awareness of theft issues

  • The majority of theft victims believed the risk of motorcycle theft to be likely or extremely likely (61 percent). Neutral risk was 22 percent and 17 percent considered the theft risk to be unlikely or extremely unlikely.
  • Individuals who had experienced more than one motorcycle theft had a more pessimistic view of theft risk, with 72 percent believing it was likely or extremely likely compared to 59 percent for first time victims.
  • Theft victims under estimated the risk of theft from the home. Motorcycles were reported by victims as stolen from the residence in 73 percent of cases, yet when asked about the most likely theft location only 47 percent said at home. A further 26 percent said street/footpath and 18 percent said car park.
  • Theft victims had their motorcycle recovered in 50 percent of cases. Most respondents were very pessimistic about the chance of a stolen motorcycle being recovered with 73 percent rating the likelihood of a stolen motorcycle being recovered at 40 percent or less. In contrast, 8 percent of respondents rated the likelihood of recovery at 61 percent or higher.
  • Off-road bike owners were the most pessimistic about the chance of a stolen motorcycle being recovered, with 80 percent rating the likelihood as 40 percent or lower. Scooter/Moped owners were the least pessimistic, with 64 percent rating the likelihood of recovery at 40 percent or lower.
  • When asked why they believed their bike was stolen, 39 percent said it was to sell for profit (parts or as a whole), 29 percent said for short term use/joy riding, 5 percent said for personal use by the offender and 1 percent said for use in motor sports.
  • Theft victims considered the most effective security measure to be parking in a locked shed or garage (64 percent rated it extremely or very effective). This was followed by tracking systems (63 percent), disc lock with alarm (61 percent), home security system (51 percent), disc lock (43 percent) and chain with lock (42 percent). The devices considered least effective were steering locks (rated extremely or every effective by only 32 percent) and kill switches (40 percent).
Perceived risk of a motorcycle being stolen
RiskResponse percent
Extremely unlikely2.7
Unlikely14.3
Neutral22.0
Likely47.3
Extremely likely13.7
Perceived chance of a stolen motorcycle being recovered
Chance of recoveryResponse percent
0 to 20
percent
44.8
21 to 40 percent27.9
41 to 60 percent19.1
61 to 80 percent5.5
81 to 100 percent2.7

Security practises before theft

Regular security practises before theft
before theftResponse percent
Locked shed46.2
Steering lock45.7
Kill switch23.1
Chain with lock21.5
Disc lock14
No security12.4
Home security10.3
Disc lock with alarm2.7
Bike alarm2.7
Tracking system0
  • When asked to select from a list of regularly used security measures, one in eight theft victims (12 percent) used no security measures and 40 percent used one measure. Two measures were used by 25 percent, three measures 16 percent, four measures 6 percent and five measures 1 percent.
  • Before theft, the most regular security practise used was parking in a locked shed or garage (46 percent), engaging the bike steering lock (46 percent) and a chain with lock (22 percent). Devices such as disc locks (14 percent), disc locks with alarm (3 percent), an alarm by itself (3 percent) and tracking devices (0 percent) were used less.
  • People who had experienced a previous theft had more regular security practises. For example, regular use of chain with lock (38 percent vs 18 percent of first time theft victims) or disc lock with alarm (9 percent vs 1 percent).
Regular security practises before theft, by motorcycle type
before theftScooterOn-road (not scooter)Off-road
Locked shed205062.7
Steering lock6569.047619.3
Kill switch16.730.95224.1
Chain with lock209.5228.9
Disc lock1019.047614.5
No security18.39.59.8
Home security3.39.523814.6
Disc lock with alarm3.34.761.2
Bike alarm3.37.1420
Tracking system000
  • Scooter owners were less likely to regularly use a locked shed (20 percent) than off-road bike owners (63 percent).
  • Off-road bike owners had low regular use of steering locks (19 percent). They are generally not fitted to off-road (not registerable) bikes.
  • Chain with lock was most frequently used by off-road bike owners (29 percent), followed by scooter owners (20 percent).

Security practises at time of theft

Regular security practises before theft and at time of theft
Regular use before theftIn place at time of theft
Locked shed46.222.6
Steering lock45.740.3
Kill switch23.117.7
Chain with lock21.513.4
Disc lock146.5
No security12.421
Home security10.33.2
Disc lock with alarm2.71.1
Bike alarm2.72.7
Tracking system00
  • At time of theft, a fifth (21 percent) of victims had no security practices in place. When they were in use, their level of usage was lower than their reported regular use.

    For example, 23 percent of thefts were from a locked shed or garage, yet 46 percent said it was a regular practise. There were also variations for different motorcycle types such as on-road (not scooter), where 17 percent of thefts were from a locked shed or garage, yet 50 percent said it was a regular practise.
  • For victims that had no security practices in place at time of theft, they stated:
    • they had an old bike or 'just a scooter' and didn't realise the theft risk.
    • they had a bike that was not expensive.
    • they were not aware of security options and were never advised by their dealer to purchase any.
    • they did not like the inconvenience of carrying around a heavy chain.
    • that in one instance, they had been advised by their dealer to not purchase any security because offenders would do more damage removing the device.
  • Motorcycles were reported by victims as stolen by using the keys in 9 percent of cases, including 5 percent where the keys were left in the bike.
  • Motorcycles were reported by victims as stolen from the residence in 73 percent of cases. This included 41 percent from the driveway or yard (without break-in to a shed or dwelling) and 32 percent involved a residential break-in (including shed or garage).
  • In cases involving a break-in, theft victims had the following practises in place:
    Motorcycle not visible from the street86.7
    Motorcycle in locked shed or garage60.3
    Motorcycle behind locked gate or fence58.3
    Motorcycle behind a locked vehicle or other obstruction37.3
    Motorcycle anchored or chained to fixed object18.6
    Owner/someone at the premises when theft occurred33.3
    Premises had an alarm system10.0
  • In cases involving a break-in, 57 percent of victims had other items stolen including:
    Motorcycle accessories (helmet, boots, gloves etc.)32.4
    Small electronics (mobile phone, ipod, laptop, tablet etc.)26.5
    Other vehicles26.5
    Tools26.5
    Cash17.6
    Jewellery11.8
    Clothing11.8
    Large electronics (TV, desktop computer etc.)8.8

Security behaviour changes after theft

Regular security practises before theft, at time of theft and after theft
Regular use before theftIn place at time of theftRegular use after theft
Locked shed46.222.663
Steering lock45.740.353.4
Kill switch23.117.725.2
Chain with lock21.513.443.7
Disc lock146.517.6
No security12.4215.9
Home security10.33.216
Disc lock with alarm2.71.15.9
Bike alarm2.72.76
Tracking system001.7
  • After theft, 36 percent of victims completely stopped riding a motorcycle.
  • The regular use of all types of security practises increased after theft for those that continued to ride. The increase was largest for chain with lock (from 22 percent before theft to 44 percent after theft) and locked shed (from 46 to 63 percent).
  • There were variations for different motorcycle types:
    • Scooter - Regular use of a locked shed was up from 20 percent before theft to 54 percent after theft, chain with lock (from 20 to 46 percent) and steering lock (from 69 to 81 percent).
    • On-road (not scooter) - Regular use of a locked shed was up from 50 percent before theft to 70 percent after theft, disc lock (from 19 to 41 percent) and chain with lock (from 10 to 33 percent).
    • Off-road - Regular use of chain with lock was up from 29 percent before theft to 47 percent after theft.
Regular security practises used before and after theft, by number of practise combinations used
Regular use before theftRegular use after theft
None12.36559139784955.88235294117647
One39.784946236559116.8067226890756
Two24.731182795698938.655462184874
Three16.129032258064521.8487394957983
Four6.4516129032258112.6050420168067
Five0.5376344086021513.36134453781513
Six00.840336134453782
  • On average, the regular use of a combination of security practises generally increased after theft (from 1.7 practises before to 2.4 after).
  • When asked if the recent bike theft had changed their security behaviours:
    Yes, I now secure my bike at all times57.7
    Yes, I now secure my bike when parked at home15.9
    Yes, I now secure my bike when parked in public4.4
    No22.0
  • For victims who said it had not changed their behaviour, the primary reasons given were:
    • there is nothing more I can do.
    • if someone really wants it you can’t stop them.
    • there is no effective way to secure it.
    • have moved to a more secure location.
  • Respondents were asked to rate the effectiveness of various security practises. Parking their bike in a locked shed was considered most effective (64 percent rated it extremely or very effective), followed by tracking systems (63 percent), disc lock with alarm (61 percent), home security system (51 percent), disc lock (43 percent) and chain with lock (42 percent). Steering locks were considered least effective (32 percent rated it extremely or very effective) and kill switches (40 percent).
    Security practiseIn place at time of theftRegular use after theftPerceived effectiveness
    Extremely or very effectiveModerately or slightly effectiveNot effective at all
    Locked shed22.663.063.531.45.0
    Steering lock40.353.431.653.814.6
    Kill switch17.725.039.946.413.7
    Chain with lock13.443.741.551.57.0
    Disc lock6.517.643.248.48.4
    Home security3.216.051.340.38.4
    Disc lock with alarm1.15.961.334.74.0
    Bike alarm2.75.950.346.43.3
    Tracking system0.01.763.331.35.3
  • There was some discordance between the perceived effectiveness of various security practises and their regular usage after theft. For example, a disc lock with alarm was considered extremely or very effective by 61 percent of victims, yet only 6 percent regularly used one after theft.
  • The steering lock was engaged at the time of theft in 40 percent of cases, yet 85 percent still perceived them to be effective to some level, including 32 percent who rated them as extremely or very effective.
  • The primary reasons given for rating devices as not effective at all were:
    • the devices could easily be by-passed or defeated.
    • the bike could easily be lifted away.
    • kill switches and steering locks were no deterrent as the bike could still be walked away.
    • if thieves really want it nothing will stop them.
    • tracking systems help with recovery but not preventing the theft.
  • When asked how much they would be prepared to spend on a security device, 51 percent of theft victims were prepared to spend more than $100, with 27 percent prepared to spend over $200. Eighteen percent said they were unlikely to spend any money on a security device, either because they had insurance cover or thought nothing could prevent a bike from being stolen.
    AmountScooterOn-road (not scooter)Off-roadAll motorcycles
    $0 - no point, you can't stop it being stolen10.516.28.811.1
    $0 - my bike is insured, so I wouldn't buy any additional security7.05.47.57.2
    $50 and under15.82.77.58.9
    $51 - $10026.313.521.321.7
    $101 - $20026.327.023.824.4
    $201 - $4007.024.311.312.8
    $401 or more7.05.420.013.9
  • Common security devices range in price.
    • basic disc lock ($25-$60) or disc lock with alarm ($70-$100).
    • cable ($30-$100) or more heavy duty chain ($140-$200).
    • ground anchor ($120-$150).

Strategies to prevent motorcycle theft

In the final section respondents were asked if there were any security devices or secure parking practises which they would like to see introduced or expanded in South Australia.

The main suggestions were about more anchor points in public parking areas and the use of high quality security cameras where bikes are parked. They would like pressure on manufacturers/distributors to fit tracking devices as a standard feature. The suggestions are listed below:

Bike parking

  • "Secure motorcycle parking at train stations."
  • "I'd like to see more paid secure car parks (e.g. U-Park) have dedicated bike parking."
  • "Designated motorcycle parking with bars to chain the bike to, similar to public bicycle racks."
  • "Areas in car parks for bikes similar to bicycle racks whereby lighter motorcycles can be chained to racks. Small bikes are too easily lifted up."
  • "Hoops in the ground to chain the bike to in bike parks."
  • "Wheel locking clamps at bike parking areas."
  • "A security locking device bolted to road at motorbike park areas with a locking facility to use your own lock to secure your bike to."
  • "Maybe an expandable clamp that you could place onto the front and rear wheel."
  • "Secure street parking in CBD. i.e. things to chain a bike to. Police look out for stolen bikes - trucks with bikes in back could be targeted."
  • "Selecting areas in car park for bikes to be chained to poles etc."
  • "Being able to park in public carparks - albeit at a reduced rate - would encourage me to park less on the street."
  • "Parking on footpaths out the front of businesses would make me feel much more secure. South Australia should emulate Victoria."
  • "Victorians allow motorbikes to be parked on the footpath. Not only is this practical it is more secure so the bike is not hidden between cars."
  • "Be able to park on the footpath so you can have your bike in view. This happens in Melbourne Victoria."
  • "Controlled entrances and exits to carparks."

Tracking

  • "Tracking."
  • "Tracking in every bike. Would allow for many to be returned."
  • "Affordable tracking devices."
  • "Cheaper GPS tracking."
  • "All bikes should have tracking devices in them."
  • "I think every bike should be fitted with GPS upon registration. I run a motorbike page with 8,500 members and the amount of people who's bikes are getting stolen is unheard of. I believe this should be a government initiative with some subsidy."
  • "We pay so much for registration, even for a 100cc scooter, an RF device should be issued for all motorcycles."
  • "Cheap and affordable lojack or tracking."
  • "I believe all motorbikes and cars should be fitted with inbuilt GPS trackers into the chassis where they can’t be removed by the manufacturers."
  • "The sooner we move away from number plates to embedded RF/GPS tracking registration the better. Let’s embrace the 21st century and the technology it offers. I am retired, was in the process of replacing the scooter for a motorcycle, now I feel too insecure to own either."

Cameras

  • "Security cameras in car parks."
  • "more lighting and security cameras in car parks."
  • "CCTV covering bike parking areas."
  • "Cameras in public parking area."
  • "Portable alarms and camera remote to phone or something like GPS tracker depending on price."
  • "Cameras in car parks. devices that make hot wiring harder. an ignition that can’t be used with a screw driver (once it has been hot-wired)."
  • "Cameras that are high resolution that can identify a number plate. These should be manditory in all companies and schools."

Education/Awareness

  • "I think insurance companies should include some form of print out of recent thefts including bike age and area details with their renewal statement. I may have used more security if I was aware of the risk."
  • "Just education. Had no idea how easy it is to steal a bike until this incident."
  • "Gumtree and Facebook are excellent resources for informing about stolen/reclaimed bikes. Official Police lost/stolen facebook page and gumtree account could be useful."

Alarms

  • "Affordable alarms."
  • "Bike alarms on all new bikes. Optional extra for manufacturer fitted tracking system."

Other

  • "The laws considering motorcycles as 'open vehicles' seems strange. If there are fingerprints recovered on key parts or the bike, eg. handlebars, fuel tank after the bike is recovered I do not understand how that is not hard evidence."
  • "Mandatory Whole of Vehicle Marking - data dot technology - not just SA."
  • "I'm not aware of any existing practices. Maybe riders should be required to buy some sort of security device when they register the bike. However it would be difficult to enforce riders to use such a device. If insurance premiums were reduced for riders who had a security device, that may have some influence."
  • "Park in locked garage, tie it with a chain to some secure object."
  • "Where bikes are fitted only with keyed steering lock and keyed ignition I would recommend that owners be encouraged to add an extra security device."
  • "Better police powers. Less legislation because the more laws there are the more excuses these bastards can make up. It only requires one shred of doubt and nothing can be done. The idiots know how to get around the law."
  • "Traceable chips to be put on bikes (similar to paint and glass in Subaru cars)."
  • "Insurance companies need to look at covering bikes that cannot be registered, therefore can't insure as a road bike and not covered under contents insurance. Lawn mowers and bicycles etc. are!"

Appendix: Motorcycle Riders Association of SA website survey

To complement the study of motorcycle theft victims, a second survey of general motorcycle riders was completed.

The Motorcycle Riders Association of SA (MRASA) invited website visitors to complete a similar survey about motorcycle security between 14 April and 20 August 2015. A total of 62 surveys were completed.

The MRASA respondents were different to the theft victim survey respondents. Only 10 percent had ever experienced a motorcycle theft and they were:

  • more likely to be male (91 percent vs 82 percent in the theft victim survey);
  • more likely to be older (86 percent were aged 45 years or older vs 46 percent);
  • less likely to ride a scooter/moped (5 percent vs 32 percent) or off-road bike (7 percent vs 45 percent);
  • more likely to ride other on-road bikes such as cruisers, tourers, sports bikes (81 percent vs 20 percent).

Among other key differences, MRASA respondents were:

  • less likely to regularly or always use a chain with lock (29 percent vs 44 percent).
  • more likely to regularly or always:
    • park in a locked shed or garage (92 percent vs 55 percent);
    • use a steering lock (85 percent vs 43 percent);
    • use a disc lock (32 percent vs 18 percent);
    • use a disc lock with alarm (27 percent vs 6 percent);
    • use a bike alarm (16 percent vs 6 percent).
  • equally likely to spend $0 on security devices (15 percent vs 18 percent) but for different reasons. Only 3 percent of the MRASA respondents said there was no point in spending any money on a security device as 'you can’t stop it from being stolen' compared to 11 percent in in the theft victim survey.
  • less likely to rate a:
    • chain with lock as very or extremely effective in preventing theft (24 percent vs 42 percent), which aligned with their less frequent use of chains and locks.
    • kill switch as very or extremely effective in preventing theft (24 percent vs 40 percent).
  • more likely to rate parking in a locked shed or garage as very or extremely effective in preventing theft (79 percent vs 64 percent).

Infographic summary of the survey

CARS would like to thank survey respondents for their time, members of the South Australian Vehicle Theft Reduction Committee, SA Police and the Motorcycle Riders Association of SA for their assistance.

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