I just discovered that my peaceful town of Dokkum here in Friesland has harboured a gang of latter-day Fagans over the past two years. The couple, 70 and 77 years old, have just been arrested for illegally selling some 100 stolen bikes since 2007.
Police said the two, both drug-addicts, had roped in a gang of five 'younger culprits' to steal the bikes for them, which were then were sold into the huge underground market which trades the country's 750,000 stolen bikes each year. The couple had bought drugs from the proceeds, the Dokkum police said. Under Dutch law, they may not be named, alas.
Dutch rely on bikes each day:
An average 750,000 bikes are stolen in The Netherlands each year - and the authorities say it has become a 'growing sociological problem' because the Dutch rely to such a large extent on their bikes for daily transport to work, school and shops. A central bike-theft register for the police has been set up to try and combat the problem. see .
Biking tourists wear helmets
There are some 18-million bikes in The Netherlands for its 17-million residents. The country also has developed a huge network of independent bike paths where motorised four-wheeled traffic is banned - making biking a very safe business here. These safe bike paths have also drawn an increasing number of biking enthusiasts to the Netherlands - who can be easily identified by the fact that they usually are those guys in tight . buttocks-hugging latex suits and snappy helmets. Most Dutch citizens jump on their bikes without such accoutrements and view the tourists as a bunch of whimps. There are of course huge number of cranial injuries reported each year, but the government's call for people to don helmets still falls on deaf ears. The Dutch just like the wind in their hair too much...
The Dokkum police said today that they discovered the trail of the bike-theft gang by pure luck: in August 2008, two local homes had been emptied out of all its contents by burglars - and this was a breakthrough: one of the burgled home owners had, rather trustingly, given his housekey to the elderly male suspect to 'look after their home during their absence'. And inside this house had also been the key to the second burgled home the couple had been asked to 'keep an eye on'.
When the residents returned from their vacation, they had found both homes emptied out and all its contents sold off. Police made the link very quickly, arresting the elderly 'housesitters' and then also started asking them some probing questions about the unusually high number of bike thefts in Dokkum.
The couple soon confessed that they had carried out their looting campaign over a two-year period, and stolen up to 100 bikes. They 'd roped in the help of five younger 'helpers', the youngest was only 17 years old. They are all expected to appear in court soon. Alas, petty thefts usually are punished with fines or community service - so they'll probably be right back, doing the same thing. But this time, the Dokkum police will at least know who they are. see