March 2, 2014

Bike Registry Sunday—local edition

I have a Google alert set up to deliver to my inbox each day a digest of recent news stories related to bike theft, and lately the lists have been awash in coverage of San Francisco's voluntary bike registration program, which launched on February 12.

Most of the stories about SAFE Bikes give the basics: A centralized database stores serial numbers, photographs, and other identifying information to help law enforcement return to their rightful owners bikes recovered in sting operations or chop shop raids. One oft-cited statistic: Of the 864 bikes recovered by police in 2012, all but 142 remain unclaimed.

Some accounts of San Francisco's latest attempt at combatting bicycle theft, though, include tidbits of human interest. SFGate's Kale Williams, while making the point that bicycle theft is a problem in San Francisco, cited Board of Supervisors President David Chiu's claim that thieves have relieved him of "4.7" bikes during his 18 years in the city. (Apparently that figure translates into "four complete rides, a few wheels and three seats.")

And the San Francisco Bay Guardian's story about how SAFE Bikes had registered 500 two-wheelers in its first two weeks ended with this postscript:
Guardian Editor Steven T. Jones had been planning to register his three bikes with the program, and then two of those bikes were stolen from outside his third floor apartment yesterday. They were a Trek Fast Track 420 road bike, purple with green tires, and a black Rocky Mountain bike with knobby tires and red handlegrips. Let his loss be a lesson to the rest of us: Don’t procrastinate, register today.
Which provides a great segue into this post's plug for local bike registries. While there are a number of national and even international registries out there (a few of them are mentioned here, here, and here), making your bike's existence and ownership known to authorities in your area will not only facilitate its recovery should it go missing but also alert local law enforcement to the presence of concerned and responsible cyclists.

So see if your police department or bike advocacy organization has a registry, and take the time to get your bike(s) on record. (Not knowing where your serial number is is not an excuse. We've been over that.) For readers in the DC area, I know of two registries: the Metro Transit Police Department's and the Arlington County Police Department's.

Check back later in the week for Arlington County police lieutenant Heather Hurlock's take on the effectiveness of local bike registries.

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