Figures released May 28 by the San Luis Obispo Police Department confirm what the local bicycle community suspected in recent years: Bike thefts are on the rise in SLO.
According to SLOPD, residents and visitors reported 269 bikes stolen in SLO during 2012—a higher figure than recorded in each of the previous five years. That number represents a 31 percent increase since 2008, which corroborates anecdotal evidence that bike thieves around town continue to grow bolder.
SLO County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Dan Rivoire lost one bike to thieves and found another locked up at Cal Poly after putting out a notice through e-mail and social media.
“It’s not too surprising to me to see the numbers up,” he said. “I’m sure this doesn’t even reflect the true numbers.”
To help stem the tide of bicycle pilferage, the city recently started a voluntary bike registry to help police identify stolen property. SLO won’t issue any stickers and decals—like those often used with mandatory bike registration programs—and won’t charge fees. Bike owners can simply submit a form to populate a police database.
SLOPD representatives say the primary purpose of the registry is to provide police with information to aid in the prosecution of thieves. They also aim to facilitate the return of recovered bikes.
“Each year new students and residents come to our community, adding to the volume of bicycles,” Cpt. Keith Storton wrote in an e-mail. “Many bicycles are purchased outside of the city with no records available containing serial numbers and details of the owner. This makes it difficult to return a stolen or lost bicycle to the lawful owner.”
The Bike Coalition hopes the registry will raise SLO’s nine percent recovery rate in 2012. Although that sounds bleak, a bike theft victim in a larger city stands almost no chance of recovery. That glimmer of hope in SLO suggests that a registry could actually make a measurable difference.
“We’re excited about the registry,” Rivoire said. “Most people who have commuter bikes don’t take the time to document ownership. I think it’s a really good learning moment for everyone in town.”