PEARLAND, Texas - While the pandemic has made bicycles popular and hard to find, a string of smash-and-grab burglaries is adding a new level of challenge for bike shops.
Since the Spring, the early morning heists have hit stores in Harris, Fort Bend, Brazoria, and Montgomery counties.
Surveillance video shows how brazen the bandits are. In early December, they drove a U-Haul box truck through the security barrier of Pearland Bicycles and grabbed thousands of dollars worth of bicycles.
It's the second time, in six months, that the store has been hit by burglars.
Now, the display racks are empty, while security repairs are made because it doesn't make any sense to keep any bikes out in the open.
Owner Daryl Catching says he's confident he's seen guys casing the store. "We're just trying to keep bikes out of the store, until they're sold, when we build them and deliver them," says Catching. "We're build-to-order, right now. You can't run your business like that for very long, because people want to come in and touch, and feel and see what you have."
It's not an isolated case. A band of thieves also broke shops in Sugar Land and The Woodlands, in recent weeks. All told, since Spring, shop owners believe losses are approaching a million dollars.
"The level of concern, and the way we're having to guard our bikes and businesses, now, is seemingly ridiculous," says Shama Cycles owner Philip Shama.
His shop has also been robbed, though not recently, but that's little consolation. He, and fellow owners, are spending thousands of dollars each month, trying to secure their businesses with locks, bars and cameras. They are also talking among themselves to share tips and strategies, trying to stay ahead of some crooks who appear to know exactly what they're doing.
"I think it's an organized group, or somebody organizing different groups of people, that are doing this," says Shama, "They're doing it too often and they're getting too bold."
Shop owners believe the stolen bikes are out of the area, perhaps even out of the country.
A local law enforcement agency, investigating the thefts, did not want to reveal much about the case, except to suggest there are some decent leads on who may be responsible.