No police data on such thefts, but growing popularity, portability make PMDs attractive targets
E-scooters easy targets for thieves Food delivery rider Dayan Lim had his e-scooter stolen last month, but was able to recover it with the help of e-scooter enthusiast group Just Visited, which managed to track down the culprit. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Last month, food delivery rider Dayan Lim received a shock when he returned to his e-scooter, which he had parked outside the Jem shopping mall in Jurong East.

"When I went back to my e-scooter, I saw a guy push away my FoodPanda bag and ride off with my e-scooter," he said, adding that he had not locked his device, which cost around $3,000.

His e-scooter enthusiast group Just Visited, which has more than 1,000 members, was alerted to the theft and managed to track down the culprit later that day.

Before the incident, in the six months doing deliveries on his e-scooter, Mr Lim said he had not secured his device as he saw no reason to do so.

"After the incident, I immediately went to Scooterhub (a chain of shops selling e-scooters) to install an alarm," he said.

E-scooters have increased in popularity over the last two years following the imposition of stricter rules on electric bicycles.

The devices range in price from around $300 to more than $3,000, with some models going for more than $7,000.

Though police were unable to provide figures on the number of personal mobility device (PMD) theft cases reported, there were several cases of such thefts covered by the media last year.

In May last year, six youths aged between 14 and 23 were arrested for breaking into an e-scooter shop in Tiong Bahru and stealing eight PMDs.

And in November, a 37-year-old man was arrested for the theft of bicycles and e-scooters in areas such as Teck Whye and Bukit Batok.

In some areas such as Punggol, posters put up by the police note an increasing number of PMD thefts.

E-scooter-sharing firms PopScoot and Telepod also had cases of their PMDs being stolen last year, though their in-house tracking systems enabled the devices to be recovered quickly.

One user, Mr Vin Lee, said he had heard of four cases of e-scooter theft among his friends alone.

The 31-year-old engineer also had his e-scooter stolen two weeks ago after putting it for sale on online marketplace Carousell.

The culprit, who posed as an interested buyer, had ridden off with the $3,000 device after claiming he wanted to take it for a test ride.

"I had an anti-theft alarm installed, but I had it deactivated so as to allow the buyer to test ride it," he said.

Alarms cost between $10 and $20, while Global Positioning System trackers - which allow users to track the devices using a mobile app - can cost more than $200.

The added cost of these security features could be one reason why few install them, said Mr Lee, who managed to recover his device after the thief was caught by the police last week.

The increasing popularity of the devices, as well as their portability, make them easy and attractive targets, said Mr Denis Koh, chairman of PMD enthusiast group Big Wheel Scooter Singapore.

But he believes the number of theft cases is not yet a cause for concern.

"I don't feel that theft has become rampant, though there have been a few incidents," he said.

Mr Edmund Vong, sales and marketing manager of e-scooter retailer Falcon PEV, advised: "Where possible, try to keep your scooter by your side."

He added that attaching trolley wheels would allow the devices to be easily pushed around buildings even when folded.

Mr Vong said that riders should invest in a quality lock, which can cost between $20 and $80, and park their devices in areas with high human traffic or security cameras.

Last week, the Active Mobility Advisory Panel put forward a proposal to the Transport Ministry to have e-scooters registered, in a bid to deter reckless riding.

Registration could also help deter thieves, said Mr Koh, though he noted it would not stop theft cases completely.

"The number plates can be removed, same as with auto thefts."