Grand Theft Stroller
If someone snatched your child's stroller off your front porch, you would probably
- ask yourself what kind of sicko would steal a stroller from a baby;
- bemoan the cost of replacing your baby's set of wheels; and
- shake your head at your incredibly bad luck.
I mean, seriously: what are the odds of becoming a victim of stroller theft?
Surprisingly high, as it turns out. Stroller theft is on the rise, not just in Toronto but across North America:
And it's not just brand new strollers that are at risk of going AWOL. Jon, a parent living in Toronto's West Annex, was frustrated to discover his family's three-year-old jogger stroller missing from the family's front porch last week.
"Like most of the people we know, we didn't have it locked up -- merely placed on the safe (we thought) and well lit porch. At some point over night someone was bold enough to sneak up and lower it quietly down the steps and make off with it."
It's not difficult to figure out why strollers have become the new darlings of the snatch-and-grab criminal. There's a new stroller customer born every minute; and budget-stretched parents are always on the lookout for a reasonably-priced second-hand stroller. There's also a well-established tradition of buying-and-selling second-hand goods stranger-to-stranger within the parenting community, something that makes it almost impossibly easy for a would-be thief to connect with potential buyers.
"If a thief steals a bike I've heard of a myriad of ways they can sell the bike...[via] shady bike stores, on-line ads (Craigslist) and even just offering strangers on the street the chance to buy it cheap," Jon explains.
But wait. It gets even better -- or more bizarre. There may even be stroller chop shops. A recent article in a Brooklyn newspaper noted that the wheels on certain high-end strollers are much sought after by motorized mini-bike enthusiasts.
Hot commodity or not, strollers will continue to be a necessity for families – which means parents are going to have to come up with strategies for sidestepping stroller theft – both online and off. (Yes, the stroller world has its own online scam -- the fake Bugaboo Stroller auction at eBay.)
"As the price of these things goes up (Bugaboos being well over $1000) I suppose they make more attractive targets for thieves and we're at a stage where they have to be locked or stored indoors. But what does a parent in a small apartment do?" asks Jon.
Or a parent who has to contend with multiple small children, a stroller, and a flight of slippery, wet stairs, in order to drag the family stroller to safety?
I think it makes more sense to tackle this issue at the deterence level. In his letter to me, Jon proposed a stroller registry system similar to the bike registry system which has helped to reduce the number of bicycle thefts.
I'll let Jon explain:
"Police have a registry for stolen bikes but even that depends upon owners filing their serial numbers and the faint hope that the Police find or recover the bike from the thieves or their customers.
"But what about strollers? No such registry exists and, to my knowledge, no serial number system is employed by manufacturers to aid in tracking strollers when lost or stolen."
I'd love to see Jon run with his stroller-registry idea. How about you?