slides: Ten Ways to Fight Bike Theft
Friday, February 27, 2015
The Portland Police Bureau had postponed launching a bike theft task force as the city tries to fight a growing crisis.
Last year, roughly $2 million worth of bicycles were stolen in Portland, not including the many thefts that went unreported.
“Bike theft here is insane. It’s a huge problem,” said Portland resident Katie Hoffman, whose bike was stolen in September. “It could be in a well-lit neighborhood, on a main street—it doesn’t matter.”
Hoffman had her $700 road bike stolen in the middle of the day in front of the Northeast Portland pub Rontoms. A few months later, her bike seat was stolen when her bike was parked at Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital.
Slideshow Below: 10 Ways to Fight Bike Theft
Combating bike theft in Portland and the rest of the U.S. has been a growing struggle for law enforcement and bike owners alike. Cyclists fail to take proper precautions, while police often lack the time or resources to return bikes. The national arrest rate for bike thefts is less than 3 percent.
Several other cities and communities have formed similar task forces or collations to fight bike theft, including Los Angles, Stanford University, and Sonoma County, California.
The Sonoma County Bike Coalation has been operating since the summer of 2014. Although it took time to grow the movement, Executive Director Gary Helfrich said the community has come together to stop bike crimes.
Efforts included bait-bikes to help break up large bike theft operations, and bike shop owners educating buyers on theft prevention and proper locking techniques.
“Bike shops are engaged and crimes of opportunity are down,” Helfrich said. “We got people to stop thinking individually.”
While community involvement is important, bike owners also play an important role in preventing bike theft, Helfrich said.
Figting Bike Crime
Cyclists often do not register the serial number on their bike with police or national registers, making it difficult for the police or the owner to track down the bike if it's stolen.
J Allard is CEO of Project 529, a Portland company that uses technology to help owners get stolen bikes back. After his bike was stolen, Allard used his tech background to create apps that make registering a bike a five minute process, and help biking communities to locate a bike after it is stolen.
He said often bikes end up getting sold at police auctions, because they are unregistered and the police have no way to contact the owner.
Allard is a member of the future Portland task force and is optimistic about the project. For a city that has invested so much into a cycling infrastructure, Allard said it is important to make sure cyclists feel safe taking advantage of "Bike City USA. "
“If bikes are getting stolen, it defeats the purpose of alterative transport,” Allard said. “Bike theft is frustrating and emotional for people. They rely on it every day for work or school, or simply a hobby that’s a passionate part of their life.”
Related Slideshow: 10 Ways to Fight Bike Theft
Register Your Bike
It is the simplest and most effective way to make sure you get your bike back after it's stolen. It lists your bike’s serial number with your name officially with the police.
If filling out paper work is too much trouble, at least make sure you have a picture of the bike and know the serial number. This information will help police find your bike and return it.
Know Your Insurance Policy
Some homeowners and renters insurance policies will cover bike theft. Hoffman said her renters insurance covered a large portion of her stolen bike, allowing her to buy a new one.
However, if you end up finding the stolen bike, you will have to buy it back from the insurance company.
When locking your bike, stay away from the cheap options. Allard said 70 to 90 percent of bike thefts are from cable locks, which can be cut through with any $20 dollar cable cutter.
A U-lock is much harder for a thief to dismantle, unless they use power tools. Locking the U-Lock through the frame and tire also helps, making it hard for the thief to make off with your wheel or ride away.
Be conscious of where you lock your bike. Try in front of ATM or other busy places with security cameras. Also, avoid areas near electrical sockets so thieves can’t use power tools to cut bike racks or U-locks.
Although finding a safe spot to lock up may add a few minutes walk to your travel, it is well worth the price of your bike.
Try the Police
If your bike is stolen, make sure to report it to the police. Many victims assume it is not worth time or some even try to track down the bike on their own. Although many bike crimes go unsolved or prosecuted, some do have happy endings. Why not use all your resources?
And if your bike is registered, you have a better chance getting it back.
Make Friends With Your Local Bike Shop
Bicycle shops are a great resource, whether your bike is stolen or not. They have a touch on the pulse of the local bike world. If your bike is stolen, check in to see if they have seen it brought in for repairs, or ask if you can post a missing flyer.
They also can provide helpful tools and tips for keeping your bike safe from thieves, so it doesn't get stolen in the first place.
Download An App
Technology is helping fight bike crime, one app download at a time. Portland’s Project 528 has one app that makes it easy to register your bike, and another that uses a network of bikers to send out an alert system if your bike is stolen.
The Cricket sends an alarm to your Smartphone every time somebody touches your bike.
BikeSheppard also has an app to help register and report a stolen bike.
Crowdsource, Crowdsource, Crowdsource
BikeIndex.org. StolenBikeRegistry.com. NationalBikeRegistry.com. There are a number of websites that list serial numbers from stolen bikes. They also allow people who see suspicious bike advertisements to check to see if it is stolen property.
Social media is also helpful for spreading the word to friends and members of the biking community about your missing property.
Expand Your Search
Just because your bike was stolen in Portland doesn’t mean it stays in Portland. A majority of bike thefts are part of large criminal operations. Allard said many times police will come across a number of stolen bikes while breaking up other crimes. Yet it could be hundreds of miles away from where your bike was stolen. So try police departments around the state.