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Monday, February 2, 2015

SAFE Bikes Claims 20 Percent Decline in Bike Thefts In 2014

Posted By on Mon, Feb 2, 2015 at 4:10 PM

click to enlarge spokesman.jpg

It’s been a year since SAFE Bikes launched a campaign to reduce bike theft in San Francisco. SAFE was created to educate people about good locking techniques and about what to do when their bike is stolen. Maybe just as important is the registry system that SAFE provides.

The SAFE Bike registry makes it easy to prove that you own your bike if it's stolen and recovered by the police, and likewise, it makes it easy for the police to find the owners of registered bikes. I was curious if this combo of education, advocacy, and registration has actually worked to cut down on theft and increase recovery of stolen bikes in the last year so I asked Morgan St. Clair, the Public Safety Specialist and SAFE Bikes Manager about the first year of the program.

SFW: Can you tell me about how successful SAFE Bikes has been in the last year? What's worked and what hasn't worked?

St. Clair: We’ve hit many milestones including:

• A 20 percent decrease in bicycle street thefts over the last year;
• Delivery of theft prevention materials to more than 25,000 riders;
• A marked increase in arrests and investigations by the SFPD;
• The return of more than 100 stolen bicycles through the support of the SFPD
• Registration of more than 6,000 bicycles in the SAFE Bikes database.

What’s been especially successful is conducting educational presentations and workshops on bicycle theft prevention. I have presented at universities, large tech companies and also community groups where people are better aware of bike theft prevention tips for locking their bike inside and out on the streets. In addition, the strong partnerships have worked well between the SFPD, SF Bike Coalition, Bike Index, MTA, DA’s office and the many bike shops across the city. By working closely with the Southern Station and the Property Department, we were able to return many bikes back to their owners which were recovered by the SFPD.

Our next growth areas are technology and volunteer support. Since SAFE is a small nonprofit with many other programs, we are always looking for volunteers to help us out.

click to enlarge The press conference where SAFE Bikes was launched last year in front of City Hall.
  • The press conference where SAFE Bikes was launched last year in front of City Hall.
SFW: How many bikes have been registered? Do you know how many stolen bikes SAFE has helped to return?

MSC: Currently, we have more than 6,200 bikes registered with us, and that number is increasing every day. With the collaboration of the SFPD, SAFE has helped return approximately 100 bikes.

SFW: What's different about SAFE since the registration program started a year ago?

MSC: Since the program started a year ago, we have started the “Is this a bait bike?” sticker campaign. The SFPD is conducting bait bike sting operations across the city to catch thieves in the act of stealing locked bicycles. Apprehending individuals predisposed to steal bikes relies on GPS equipment, cameras and a plainclothes team. The stickers make the thieves believe that the bike they are stealing could possibly be a bait bike.

Also, the MTA will be putting stickers in the next few years on bicycle racks encouraging riders to register and to check out our locking techniques. We have done an increasing amount of outreach to schools, bike shops and many more companies since we have started. 

SFW: Do you have any plans to expand, change, or improve the SAFE registration system?

MSC: We are building a site where people can check serial numbers to see if it is in fact registered with us. This will be coming out soon, along with other features to streamline the registration. Since we are small nonprofit, our technology resources are limited. Personally, I'd like to be able to change registration information, transfer registered bikes to new owners, mark bikes as stolen or recovered, or even just see what bikes are registered to a particular user. Any chance that we'll see features like that?

Yes, there is a chance in the future to see features like this when resources become available to us. Currently, you need to email about the transfer of ownership or a change of your information.

If you’re interested in celebrating the first anniversary of SAFE Bikes and don’t mind contributing to the cause of reducing bike theft, then you can pony up $50 for the party at 111 Minna Art Gallery on February 25. All proceeds go to benefit SAFE and there will be a drawing for some Public bikes stuff. If you’re interested in volunteering, St. Clair promises pizza in return – the next volunteer session is 2/2 at the SAFE Office at 850 Bryant Street at 6:30 p.m. You can email to RSVP.

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About The Author

Leif Haven

Leif Haven

Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He can be spotted dragging himself up a hill — literally and metaphorically.


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