Cyclists, you can greatly boost the odds of getting a stolen bike back if you keep a record of its serial number. Otherwise, most bikes never get returned.
That's according to city police in Bellingham, where
325 bikes are stolen each year.
Police typically search state and national databases for serial numbers of recovered bikes to see if they've been reported stolen. If the serial number doesn't appear, police eventually donate the bike to charity or auction it off.
Bikes aren't stolen only by hooligans looking to upgrade their own wheels. They're often dealt for drugs or sold online for a fast profit. Police take note when they see a $1,000 bike offered for $200, for example.
Bellingham police plan to join
529 Garage, an online bike registry meant to foil online sales of stolen bikes. Similarly, police where I live in Redmond have teamed with
TrackMole.com to help residents recover stolen property. It's a free program for recording serial numbers of valued items, something done by only 5% of property-owners. Bike Index is another great (free!) registry.
I learned that an anti-theft program I joined way back in 1978 still exists,
Operation Identification. The concept is simple: Use an engraver to etch your driver's license number into your valued possessions, discouraging thieves. If anything is stolen and recovered, police can spot the etching and return your stuff. Don't have an engraver? Participating police departments will lend you one.
A quick online search shows Operation ID is supported by police in Northwest cities like Longview, Renton, Shoreline, Spokane, Yakima, Roseburg, Salem, Springfield, and more.
If you own a bike that's not recovered, and you have PEMCO home, renter, or condo insurance, rest assured that bicycles (aside from electric or motorized bikes) are among the personal possessions included in your contents coverage.