Nanaimo woman gets her stolen bike back, thanks to smartphone app

A Nanaimo woman whose mountain bike was stolen during a trip to Kelowna last year has been reunited with her two-wheeler — with help from a smartphone app.

Kathy Gonzales was contacted by police after listing her bike on 529 Garage, a website and phone app that allows cyclists to register details and photos of their bikes.

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If a registered bike is stolen, an alert is sent to fellow 529 Garage users. Police can also use the searchable database.

Gonzales had her high-end bike stolen from her car’s rack in September and it was brought into a Vancouver bike shop for resale late last month. Following a search of the 529 Garage database, the store owner saw that a match — which turned out to be Gonzales’s bike — was listed as stolen.

Vancouver police were called and the bike was seized and returned to Gonzales.

“I’m thrilled to get my bike back,” she said. “The process was so easy and the more people use it, the better it will be.”

Nanaimo RCMP Const. Gary O’Brien is a fan of 529 Garage, saying it was developed by a tech expert — whose own bike was stolen — in conjunction with police on the mainland.

As in other communities, bike theft is a “huge issue” in Nanaimo, said O’Brien, adding that the annual number was in the hundreds. “It’s not uncommon to see bikes worth $1,000 to $3,000 stolen.”

The sooner word gets out that a bike is missing, the better, O’Brien said, especially considering that thieves might paint it a different colour within minutes.

So far, more than 500 Nanaimo bikes have been registered through the app, O’Brien said.

Bike owners can register their bikes on 529 Garage through the app, available in the App Store on iTunes, or at 529garage.ca.

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

— With a file from Carla Wilson

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