A dramatic increase in the number of motorcycles being stolen in Hong Kong has owners worried that the city has become a soft target for exporters of stolen bikes. The number of bikes stolen has continued to rise as demand for bigger models increases on the mainland and in offshore markets like Taiwan and Thailand. And the thieves are becoming increasingly brazen, targeting large bikes kept in supposedly secure garages as well as those left by the roadside. Police statistics showed the number of reported motorcycle thefts rising by 31 per cent last year, to 441, from 336 in 2003. In the first three months of this year, 133 motorcycles were stolen, raising the average from 363/4 bikes a month last year to 441/3. 'Our intelligence sources reveal that a proportion of them are delivered to other places like China, Taiwan and Thailand,' said Detective Inspector Sherman Chow Chuen-hoi, of the Crime Prevention Bureau. 'The percentage that is relocated is quite small, about 15 to 20 per cent.' The chairman of the Classic Bike Club of Hong Kong, Ian Foster, is scathing about the police response to the problem. He had a BMW motorcycle stolen from the Aberdeen Marina Club last year, and last week his Honda was targeted, with its cover being torn off before the attempt to steal it was abandoned. 'The police's efforts are woefully inadequate,' he said, adding that he was convinced the thieves are well organised. 'We tried to have meetings with them, tried pushing them to get the anti-triad bureau involved but to no avail ... basically they ignored us.' But Inspector Chow said the force had no hard intelligence that triads, or any other organised crime syndicates, were involved. Despite a rash of thefts from secure car parks, owners are still statistically better off parking their vehicles there. 'Our analysis has shown that open spaces at street level, not car parks, are the most likely places to have a bike stolen from,' Inspector Chow said. 'The modus operandi is that they use a crane lorry to lift the whole thing onto the back of a truck. This is the inherent weakness of motorcycles.' He suggested bike owners park in well-lit areas where there is plenty of traffic and lock their bikes with a big chain attached to an immobile object. They should also use an engine immobiliser. 'Owners just can't rely on locking the bike without attaching it to a barrier or other anchor.'