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RideOnSacramento, police, SABA launch ’free and easy’ bike registry

Originally published in Sacramento News & Review on 12.05.13

By Lovelle Harris

Chances are that, if you’re a bicyclist in Sacramento, you’ve had your ride lifted. And that, with annual bike thefts numbering in the thousands, you’re not alone.

In a joint effort to help put the brakes on thievery, the city of Sacramento and the Sacramento Police Department launched an online registry program last week. The hope is that if more people register their bikes, police will be able to return stolen bikes back to their owners.

Spearheaded by District 4 City Councilman Steven Hansen, the free registry called “Ride On!” will allow anyone to go online and register their bike. The information entered into the police department’s internal database will allow officers to help determine the owner of a recovered bicycle.

“People haven’t had a way to register them, so when their bike is stolen, if they haven’t kept the serial number, they can’t give police that information if they do file a report,” Hansen said. “What we want to do is get people to register their bike so that any police officer can look up a bike, see if it’s registered and contact the person who last registered it to see if they’ve sold it, or if they’ve just misplaced it, or if it was stolen.”

Hansen explained that the registry, essentially, had no startup costs since the police department already had the technology and the databases in place. And the only cost going forward will be staff time.

Ride On! came about from the request of Midtown residents at a public-safety meeting. “They said bike theft was an issue, and they didn’t feel that the city was doing enough,” Hansen said.

The councilman conceded that registries in other cities haven’t worked very well, but he says that’s “because there were a lot of barriers to registration,” such as charging people to sign up and difficulty of use.

“We’ve tried to design something that is free and easy,” he said.

The city is also enlisting the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates to assist with a public-education component, to be rolled out in January 2014.

Jim Brown, the executive director of SABA, explained that registration is especially important since a fair number of stolen bikes are recovered, but only a small proportion are returned because the police simply don’t have the information about its ownership. Brown also stressed the importance of proper locking habits.

“Make locking a habit wherever you go,” Brown said, adding, “Not all locks are created equal, and if you’re going to protect your investment, you want to invest in a good lock.”

Brown says the program is a work in progress. “I’ve been impressed with how open the [information technology] staff at the police department has been to making refinements,” he said.

Refinements aside, it appears that the public’s interest has been roused.

“We posted on our Facebook page an announcement of the registry, and I think we had about 800 people view that page,” Brown said. “So a lot of people are interested, and I’m curious to see what this looks like down the road.”

Register your bike today at http://rideon.sacpd.org.

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