A few years ago, the Washington Post reported that websites like Craigslist and eBay could be unintentionally sparking a rise in bicycle thefts in the story “As web fuels bike thefts, victims turn vigilante.”
That’s probably not much of a headline to people who regularly visit these websites, often in search of their stolen bikes.
There are a few websites, however, that list stolen bicycles where you can check to see if that used bike you’re buying is stolen.
First, people sometimes post their stolen bikes on Craigslist. I searched “stolen bikes” on the local Craigslist and turned up several listings for people searching for their bikes, including one who had his stolen from his garage and another taken from the downtown Seattle Library.
I also stumbled across another website — BikeIndex.org — where victims of bike theft can register their bikes with a description and serial number.
Law-abiding potential bike buyers, bike shop workers, or interested citizens can keep an eye open for the stolen bikes and confirm with the serial number. Meanwhile, someone buying a used bike can enter the database and check to see if it’s listed.
The website is a merger of BikeIndex and Stolen Bike Registry, which was started by Bryan Hance back in 1999. It reports recovering 4,366 stolen bikes and registering more than 69,000. Police departments, bike shops and bike advocacy groups have also partnered with the program.
Seattle-based Bicycle Security Advisors made some recommendations to what to do when you register your newly acquired bike at BikeIndex:
Provide multiple photos of your bike from multiple angles.
Include a photo of the bike’s serial number, which is usually under the bike’s bottom bracket.
Include a selfie photo of yourself with your bike.
Provide a detailed description of your bike and all its components, scratches and stickers.
Regularly update your bike’s registration page. If you add or remove accessories on your bike, take new pictures of your bike.
The merged National Bike Registry and 529 Garage is a national database of registered bicycles. Those who sign up for the program received a tamper resistant NBR label with a registration number than can be tracked by to you by law enforcement. This is useful is your bicycle is ever stolen and ditched or confiscated by police in a stolen bike crackdown.
How to deal with bike thieves? This video might be a little over-the-top.
Jonathan Maus also has a stolen bicycle list BikePortland.org for the Portland area. I don’t know of any statistics, but he occasionally writes about recovered bicycles.