On an average day in Waterloo Region, 10 bicycles are reported stolen – and police say they’re likely ending up in the possession of drug dealers.

Waterloo Regional Police tell CTV News bikes are being stolen by drug users looking to exchange them, rather than cash, for narcotics.

“They’re using the bike as cash,” says Staff Sgt. John Goodman.

“The better the bike, the more drugs you’re going to get. A $1,000 bicycle would roughly get you a tenth of a gram of methamphetamine.”

King Street Cycles co-owner Lori Lackenbauer says she’s seen an uptick in bike thefts compared to previous years – even taking two calls about stolen bikes Tuesday morning.

“Waterloo’s always seemed to have high bike theft, but I do think that this particular year has seen a huge increase,” she says.

“The lucky people have insurance that can cover the cost. Otherwise it’s out of pocket.”

Goodman says bike thieves are particularly targeting Waterloo’s university district, where bicycles are most prevalent.

“A lot of times bikes are left unattended – and if they can grab them, they’ll grab them,” he says.

In some cases, Goodman says, thieves walk around neighbourhoods with bolt cutters looking for bike locks and chains they can break through.

Lackenbauer says no lock will stop a determined thief, but certain locks are more likely to deter bandits than others – particularly U-shaped locks made of harder steel.

Once the transaction is completed, police say, the bikes are altered and sold to interested buyers.