Organised bike theft: low penalties and risks make for lucrative trade

It’s no secret that one of the most widespread crimes in the Netherlands is bike theft, which has increasingly shifted to organised gang robberies and break-ins. They target bikes worth thousands of euros, and often get away with it.

The penalties for bike theft are low, and the chance of getting caught is pretty slim. Only about 1% of stolen bikes are recovered by police, reports RTL Nieuws, making the crime incredibly attractive for those looking to make easy money.

If you are caught stealing a bike, they’ll slap a pretty hefty fine on you, which can be up to €20,500 depending on the value of the bike. If the theft was a break-in, the culprit may also have to pay damages. But considering that these gangs can make €15,000 a pop, and over €100,000 when they raid shops, if they’re only caught 1% of the time this fine hardly off-putting.

Read more | 7 Things that will get you fined while cycling in the Netherlands

The damage

Although the number of victims has decreased from 560,000 (2017) to 466,000 (2019), the financial damage remains pretty much the same at €600 million annually. This is because gangs now target top-of-the-range bikes worth about €4000 to €15,000 each, which are also light-weight, making it easy to carry several of them away at once.

These gangs break into bike stores, bike sheds and homes, and are armed for cutting through bike chains. They then sell the parts or entire bikes abroad.

In extreme cases, civilians are targeted while with their bikes a crime known as bike-jacking. However, this is still quite rare and tends to only occur with the most expensive bikes.

What you can do

If you have an e-bike or racer bike, be warned, these gangs are after bikes like yours. But there are ways for you to make your bike as inconvenient as possible to steal.

Jos Kuppens of Bureau Beke emphasizes the importance of having two locks, and securing your bike indoors if possible. You cannot assume your bike will be safe in a shed or front garden, so even on private property, make sure your bike is firmly secured. For the most expensive bikes, he recommends getting a GPS tracker for your bike.

Read more | What to do if your bike is stolen in the Netherlands.

Have you had a bike stolen before? Do you think the Netherlands should have higher penalties for bike theft? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Feature Image: Maarten van den Heuvel/Pexels

Emily Burger
Emily Burger
Emily grew up in South Africa but has also lived in Egypt, the UK, Canada and now the Netherlands. She first came here for her Bachelors in Arts and Culture at Maastricht University and soon fell in love with the land of canals, clogs and cheese. When she's not daydreaming about sci-fi movies or countries yet to explore, you can find her writing for DutchReview.


  1. Any crime doesn’t matter how small it is, makes an impact and promote people to go to next level. I believe if they stop them in first stage it will be good.

  2. I think that the police should have an interest in trying to catch the criminals stealing the bikes, fines should not be an option, theft should have dire consequences. These Petty crimes eventually turn into violent crimes if not stopped in its tracks. And preventative policing is a must, instead of issuing fines, police a little.


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