I am excited to announce a new feature on Seattle Bike Blog designed to battle bike theft and help reconnect people with their stolen rides.
We have partnered with BikeIndex.org to create a listing of stolen bikes in the Seattle area and an easy form to add your bike to the Stolen.BikeIndex.org database, which can be searched by people anywhere in the world.
Bikes submitted will also be automatically tweeted by the @StolenBikesSEA account to help spread the word via social media.
This summer, BikeIndex combined with the stolen bike database formerly known as the Stolen Bicycle Registry. Bryan Hance, the founder of SBR, is a tireless bike theft fighter who has helped reconnect a lot of people with their bikes and helps to report thefts and suspicious sellers to authorities.
Hance is now working with BikeIndex to developing tools to help make the stolen bike listings more useful to more people. He designed a web app to work with Seattle Bike Blog and other local bike blogs to make it easier to battle the problem of bike theft that plagues communities everywhere. We are very excited for this service to go live today.
It is hard to say whether bike thefts are happening more often than in the past, but it certainly remains a serious problem and a big impediment to cycling as a mode of transportation. Casey Jaywork recently wrote an excellent piece about bike theft in Seattle for Seattle Met, and KIRO’s David Ham reported this week on a GPS-tracked bait bike program Olympia police are using to catch thieves in action.
Submitting bikes to the database is just one tool to fight bike theft. You should also report all bike thefts to the police. This is not only helpful if you want to get your bike back, but it also helps create a more complete picture of bike theft in the city. In Seattle, you should call the SPD non-emergency number and file a report with an officer: (206) 625-5011 (if the thief is still in the area, call 911). If your bike has a monetary value less than $500, you can file an SPD report online.
SPD also tweets bikes they collect through evidence or that have been reported as abandoned through their Twitter account @GetYourBikeBack. As with stolen cars, bike thieves sometimes just take a bike for a joyride and then ditch it in a bush or someone’s front yard. But without a report, the bikes just languish in a police warehouse.
Of course, the best thing you can do to prevent bike theft is to get a strong lock. If you only have a cable lock — even if it looks strong and has a strong-sounding name — get a u-lock, heavy chain or comparable lock. Cable locks are a good way to secure your wheels to your frame, but a stronger lock is needed to hold the frame to the bike rack. Cable locks are simply too easy a target for thieves, who can cut them quickly using small handheld tools.
You can access the stolen bike listings any time by clicking “Stolen Bikes” on the navigation bar under the Seattle Bike Blog logo above.
6 responses to “Seattle Bike Blog and BikeIndex partner to provide Seattle stolen bike listings”
Folks who hate on bikes often like to challenge bicycle owners on the issue of registration, tabs etc. Thinking beyond that expedient rhetoric, perhaps it would be worth elevating bicycles in the eyes of the law even if it means paperwork and fees.
One of the things that makes stealing cars a more serious decision than stealing a bike is that car theft brings thieves into direct interaction with the rather massive law enforcement and regulatory apparatus build around automobiles. Stealing a car is recognized as a special class of crime with impacts that go beyond the nominal monetary value of the vehicle:
Automobiles are an essential part of our everyday lives. The west coast is the only region of the United States with an increase of over three percent in motor vehicle thefts over the last several years. The family car is a priority of most individuals and families. The family car is typically the second largest investment a person has next to the home, so when a car is stolen, it causes a significant loss and inconvenience to people, imposes financial hardship, and negatively impacts their work, school, and personal activities. Appropriate and meaningful penalties that are proportionate to the crime committed must be imposed on those who steal motor vehicles
Hence car theft is a class B felony, whether a stolen car is a junker or a gleaming status symbol.
There’s a sense of confusion around bicycles in that many of us think of bikes as something akin to skis, paddleboards or the like while they’re also a tool for living and working. Clarifying the role of bicycles in public policy as reflected in regulations and law might not be such a bad thing.
Looking around the web, I see no means of registering the VIN (serial number) of a bicycle in the same way it’s done with motor vehicles. There’s a plethora of programs and organizations centered around registration but nothing with the centralized might and omniscience of a state department of motor vehicles. Perhaps part of cycling’s “growing up” in the US needs to include a coming of age in this way.
I think efforts like BikeIndex and before that the Stolen Bicycle Registry are great ways to combat theft and keep an accountable record of bike ownership in the case of theft. Bryan has done a great job making his database as complete as possible, and I think it would make a lot of sense for cities, states, etc to become partners with BikeIndex and make it part of the way they deal with bike theft. For example, officers responding to a bike theft call should tell people to also register on BikeIndex (if they don’t already). Or maybe they can even share information with BikeIndex to auto-input stolen bike data from public records.
And police departments should definitely all be checking the bikes they gather as evidence or found property in the BikeIndex system.
Many bike thefts could already be felonies dues to the value of the property stolen — above $750 in Washington: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=9A.56.040
There are definitely a lot of things the city/police can do to help make bike theft less appealing. Bait bike programs add more risk to stealing bikes because any bike could be a gps-tracked bait bike. You can’t tell. And police are not always very helpful when people find their bike listed on Craigslist, as I once discovered first hand (And Craigslist needs to be more responsive to blocking sellers who are known thieves or sellers of stolen merchandise.)
Definitely BikeIndex is filling a gap and as always, “existence is a marvelous virtue.” But we’ve still got a statutory gap; the police response to a report of a stolen automobile is required to be entirely different to that of a stolen bicycle, even while the two vehicles may be fulfilling the same specially recognized function as that described in RCW 9A.56.065. If a police officer encounters a vehicle in suspicious circumstances, there’s a reliable, official database for inquiring as to that vehicle’s status of ownership etc., resources provided with an expectation set that the officer is to perform due diligence.
To add to the note about using a proper lock, if your bike is nice or you have expensive components (hello generator hub) its also a good move to lay out the money for lock bolts for your wheels, seatpost, etc. I use pitlocks. There are others. This eliminates the need to carry multiple locks or carry your removables around with you. Quick release is not your friend.
When I lived on beacon hill ten years or so ago my car was stolen something like four times in a year (yes, honda). The police did manage to retrieve it each time but they did inform me that there was essentially nothing in the law that would allow them to punish the offenders. I was told that for kids who steal cars, the cops try to get them on driving without a license because they rarely are able to prosecute for the actual theft. Eventually a combination of a lojack system, high end alarm and integrated kill switch put a stop to the problem. Fast forward to now, I’ve got a bike worth more than the car that I feel safer leaving out in public simply because it’s not a huge target for teenagers that the car was.
Sounds as though I may be over-invested in RCW 9A.56.065. :-)
Further to Danny Westneat, if the cops are so demoralized/underfunded/whatever that they can’t enforce the law then– what?
[…] problem is fixed and the listings are back. But 72 bikes have been listed using our new page since we launched it in November. Many more Seattle-area bikes have been listed directly to BikeIndex in that time. And certainly, […]