ROANOKE, Va. -

Personal belongings are disappearing off Roanoke city streets and investigators expect the problem to only get worse as we head into summer.

Moped thefts seem to be a big problem in the city right now.

"It has and will continue to be a huge problem,” said Tom Nau.

Nau owns Long Run Mopeds in Vinton and said thieves have always eyed up his product.

"It's like anything else when there's a black market for them,” he said. “They look for them and steal them and target specific bikes."

Whether you park your moped in a parking lot or in your front yard, investigators said thieves are committing these crimes in a matter of seconds.

"It sort of goes in spurts because of the nice weather right now it's more active,” said Detective Dale Brink with the Roanoke City Police Department.

In 2012, 110 mopeds were reported stolen and investigators recovered 59. In 2013, 76 were stolen and 28 were recovered.

So far this year, 24 have been stolen and only two have been recovered.

Nau said thieves move quickly once they have them in their possession.

"They're selling the parts online,” said Nau. “In some cases, they are physically shipping the bikes out of state."

Some even go as far to change the color of the moped to throw off investigators.

"We found parts from one moped put on another moped, so sometimes they do interchange the parts,” said Brink.

Nau always tells customers their best bet is to spend the extra money on a solid lock you can't cut through or destroy.

"I warn them when they buy them that it's not a question of if,” said Nau. “It's a question of when."

Investigators and business owners are hoping a new law that takes full effect on July 1 will lower these crime numbers.

It will force all moped owners to register their mopeds with the Department of Motor Vehicles so their VIN numbers will be on file.

Here are some more tips on how to protect your moped:

  • Secure your moped to an object the thieves can't move. It's a relatively inexpensive way to "target harden" your property.

  • Secure it in a well lit area.  

  • If you see anything suspicious in your neighborhood, immediately call
    911.