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Stroller thefts on the rise in Toronto Add to ...

An opportunistic thief can recognize their state-of-the-art shock absorbers, rugged wheels, plush bucket seats and shiny chrome finishes from a city block, even a playground, away.

As their price tags have climbed beyond $1,000, an increasing number of luxury baby-transporting apparatuses have been vanishing from the front porches of family homes.

Police are cautioning parents to lock up or conceal their wheels, especially in 11 Division, the west end of the city, where six stroller thefts have been recorded so far this year.

The geography of the thefts hints that there could be a more maternal version of Igor Kenk prowling the streets, but police say it's still too early to tell.

"It's just something that somebody's twigged onto, that these things are expensive, and a lot of people look for secondhand children's equipment," said Constable Wendy Drummond, a police spokeswoman.

Earlier this year, a couple was charged after they posted two of the stolen strollers for sale online.

Two more remain unaccounted for, and the final pair appear to have been abducted for the purposes of a buggy joyride through the neighbourhood. Both were promptly found abandoned a short distance from where they were stolen.

An employee at Macklem's, a baby store that sells nearly everything buggy from Firstwheels to Zoopers, said one of her customers who lives in the Beaches had her jogging stroller stolen last weekend.

The Baby Jogger City Elite is one of the store's most popular models, according to Natasha, who declined to give her last name. It retails for $549, but it's on sale right now at Macklem's for $479.

"Their real claim to fame is that it's a one-handed fold stroller so that it's really easy to close up," she said. "But it has your big wheels so it's really appropriate for snow or any sort of all-terrain use."

(It also boasts a "multi-position sun canopy with clear view windows and side ventilation panels.") Given all these kinds of state-of-the-art offerings, it might be no surprise that there is evidence of chop-shop behaviour on the streets.

"I have heard people say that they've left their stroller outside a restaurant or … sometimes they've locked them up with a bike lock, and when they come back somebody's taken the wheels off of them," Natasha said. Toronto residents aren't alone in their plight. A neighbourhood in the south of Brooklyn, N.Y., is under siege by a serial stroller thief.

The Brooklyn Paper reported a popular theory that wheels were being stolen as spare parts for motorized mini-bikes, which are popular with teens.

On both sides of the border, the consensus is that most thieves are looking to take advantage of a thriving market for secondhand items for babies and children. "With the coming colder months and then with the snow and the mess on the tires of the melting snow and salt, people are more likely to leave [their strollers]outside and we feel that the public should know that, in fact, these thefts are happening and to take precautions," Constable Drummond said. "Being without a stroller and with a small child is a big inconvenience and also a big cost."

Follow on Twitter: @katiehammer

 

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