The New York Times has a story about bicycle theft and the steps some cities are taking to deal with it. Police in San Francisco and the University of Nevada, for example, are using hidden transmitters mounted on bikes to catch thieves.
“It’s a lot like the drug war,” said Marc Caswell of the San Francisco Bike Coalition, an advocacy group. “We need to get the higher-ups.”
“The very first bike I built, by the time I retired it, it had been stolen 33 times,” said Jason Cecchettini, whose company, Bait Bike, began selling radio-tracking technology for bikes to law enforcement agencies in 2002. Since then, the police and college campuses across the country have bought the systems, Mr. Cecchettini said, at a cost of $7,000 each, not including the price of the bicycle, which is usually valued above the level for grand larceny in a given state.
And it works
In Sacramento County alone, the use of such bikes has resulted in 150 to 200 felony arrests, according to Sgt. Todd Deluca of the Sheriff’s Department, which has been using the bikes since 2004. “When we started, I thought we’d get kids stealing each others’ bikes,” said Sergeant Deluca. “But what we’ve found is that we’ve gotten some pretty heavy-duty criminals.”
Boston has been trying to use Twitter and Facebook, but so far "only 'two or three' of the 238 bikes reported stolen using the city’s social media outreach have been recovered."
The story has theft statistics, but notes that they're under-reported
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports 188,698 thefts nationwide in 2008, up slightly from previous years. It is certainly an undercount, experts said, because cyclists assume that once the theft occurs there is little chance of getting the bike back, and often do not report thefts.
In fact, many police departments — including in Portland, Ore., where bicycling is particularly prevalent — said they did not keep official records of bicycle thefts. (Departments voluntarily send their bicycle crime data to the F.B.I., another reason for a potential undercount.)
In New York, where the police do keep a record of bicycle thefts, riders have seen about a 35 percent increase in the number of reported thefts in 2010 over the same period last year, according to statistics provided by the police. But the number of reports was small, 519 through May 16, in a city where tens of thousands ride each day.
DC has 86 reported bike thefts so far this year. DC should invest in a bait bike, or they could share one with Arlington, Alexandria etc... There are some serious bike thieves working in this area.
I often wonder if it would be worth it for bike shops to record the serial numbers of the bikes that come through for repair and run them through the Stolen Bicycle Registry. Don't mandate it, but pay healthy rewards for recovered bikes and arrests. Most bikes pass through at some point. And of coursed if you buy a used bike, check it against the registry before you buy.