What to Do When Your Bike Is Ripped Off
We all know bike theft in San Francisco is rampant. The city released a report last month that confirmed as much: a 70 percent increase in bike theft in five years, which is up to a total of 4,085 stolen bikes in 2012.
So what can you -- and the city -- do to help keep your precious ride safe?
Tweet At SFPD
This is a community affair. If people can standby and watch as a bike thief flagrantly saws through a u-lock with a battery-powered angle grinder, then there's not a great chance of stopping bike theft. Luckily, the SFPD knows that witnesses and victims are more likely to report crimes through Twitter than by phone, so they've launched this very handy @SFPDBikeTheft account to start shaming thieves and communicating with the public about current efforts to curb bike theft. If you see something, tweet something.
What to Do Before Your Bike Gets Stolen
In San Francisco it's not if your bike will get stolen, but when. Even with the best locks money can buy, all you're doing is slowing a determined thief down. Here are some good safety practices:
- Register your bike with the National Bike Registry (for a fee). This can help prevent your bike from going to a police auction, especially if it ends up far from where it was stolen. That's no guarantee that a police department that ends up with your bike will check it though.
- Fill out the SF Bike Coalition Freezer Form so you have all the important information easily at hand.
- While insurance won't buy back your trusty bike, it can buy you a new one. Renters insurance will usually cover a stolen bike, so make sure your policy does so before your bike disappears.
- There are plenty of lock-makers out there ,but OnGuard and Kryptonite are both known for security and offer anti-theft protection. You have to register your lock and your bike before your cycle gets stolen. This also makes it easier to get new keys if you lose yours.
- Get a GPS tracker from Bikespike or Spybike. If your bike gets picked up by the police you will probably still need the serial number and proof of ownership, but if you're looking to exact some vigilante justice this is the way to go.
What to Do After Your Bike Gets Stolen
- File a police report immediately. You can file a report online or go into the nearest station. If you fail to do this you may have difficulty getting your bike back even if it is recovered and you will probably also have trouble getting insurance money.
- Register it with the Stolen Bike Registry.
- List it on Racklove's Stolen Bike Finder.
- Put out an APB on social networks, and post on the Craigslist bike section that your bike was stolen, and tweet at @SFPDBikeTheft.
- Keep your eyes open! While professional bike thieves won't stay in the area, I've had bikes stolen and found them hours later in a park. You just never know
What We've Got To Look Forward To
With any luck, SFPD's efforts to curb bike theft will work. New building regulations require that new development gets indoor bike parking; that should help those who can live/work in new buildings.
The bike task force may also use "bait bikes" equipped with GPS trackers like the ones mentioned above to track down thieves and break up organized rings. One less high-tech solution that I'd love see deployed is a cardboard cutout of cops -- or maybe Mayor Ed Lee? -- positioned in high-theft areas. It seems to work in Boston, so why not here?
Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He's can be spotted dragging himself up a hill -- literally and metaphorically.