The Northwest is a great place to bike. It's also a great place to be a bicycle thief. In just the first six months of the year, Seattle Police received 600 reports of stolen bikes – likely a fraction, they say, of the actual number since a lot of victims don't report the crime. And on the flip side, hundreds of recovered, stolen bikes sit warehoused in evidence lockers with no one coming to claim them.
Luckily, you have some free or low-cost online options to help reconnect with your bike if it's ever stolen – but they work best if you act before your bike takes a hike. An online search of "bike recovery sites" will net you options like these: Bikeindex.org, Bikeshepherd.org, and Nationalbikeregistry.com. While each service has its own nuances, the basic idea is the same. You capture photos and identifying details like the brand, model, size, color, and serial number of your bike to make it easier for law enforcement (and pawn shop owners or used-bike buyers) to reconnect stolen bikes with their rightful owners.
As with any online data base, you'll want to make sure you're comfortable with the site's security protection before you share your personal information.
Sometimes, stolen bikes registered on a bike recovery site can be found and returned within days. Last summer, Seattle's KOMO-4 News reported the story of a Harborview nurse who, through Bikeindex.org, learned her stolen $900 bike had been sold to a pawn shop for $20. The pawn shop owner called her after spotting it on the registry. "If he hadn't found it (on the registry), my bike would have been lost to the world," she said.
Even if you want to skip the registry, take time to check out the registry sites. All offer great tips for making your bike less attractive to thieves.