AUSTIN, Texas - Austin police say more than 400 motorcycles were stolen between January and October, the greatest number of motorcycles stolen in the past decade.
FOX 7 Austin received the data in a records request. The data showed motorcycle thefts over the past decade and cut-off in October 2020.
Our analysis of the data shows motorcycle thefts per 100,000 people are at a 10-year high. A decade ago there were approximately 12 motorcycle thefts per 100,000 people in Austin. As of October this year, there were roughly 42. That number has doubled from 2018, where there were approximately 21 thefts per 100,000 people. In 2018 there were 200 thefts, by October 2020 there were 411.
Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday says he believes there are a number of factors at play. “People are desperate,” he told FOX 7 Austin.
The Austin Police data provided shows the greatest number of motorcycle thefts this year occurred at the beginning of the pandemic, during April, May, and June.
Casaday also points to department staffing challenges, saying “I think it’s from officers not being as proactive as they used to be just because there’s not enough officers and we have officers that are constantly responding to 911.”
He also believes lenient prosecution is to blame. “It’s not the officer's fault. It’s the county attorney and district attorney drop charges and the choices that they’re making.”
Tom Bernhardt of Tarrytown is among the hundreds of Austinites to have a motorcycle stolen this year. “The emotion is mostly disgust and there’s also some anger,” he said.
On a sunny October day, a thief wheeled Bernhardt's BMW bike out of his open garage. “It’s a fairly easy crime,” he admitted.
Bernhardt eventually got his motorcycle back. The thief who has a lengthy criminal history was picked up for a drug charge and violating parole.
Travis County Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Sylestine tells FOX 7 Austin he chose not to pursue charges related to the motorcycle theft. The young man's drug case resulted in probation, he was sent to drug treatment and ordered to pay Bernhardt restitution.
“If it seems apparent to me as a prosecutor that this is revolving around drug addiction, then I kind of see it as my responsibility to point them in that direction. I want to do what I can to make treatment resources available to them,” said Sylestine.
Bernhardt remains unhappy with the case's outcome, telling FOX 7 Austin, “There needs to be pressure put on the government to do their one big job which is protect us and put criminals away.”