Victoria police adopt new method for registering bicycles

An online bicycle-security system used by police across Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland is prompting the Victoria Police Department to phase out its bike-registry program by the end of the month.

The system, Project 529 Garage, is based on an app that allows owners to upload pictures of their bikes and notify others if their bike is stolen. Registration is as simple as sending an email, and the basic service and app are free to use.

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The name was inspired by the hours from 5 to 9 p.m., when the inventors can hop on their bikes.

The app is used by a number of people within Victoria police’s jurisdiction, which is one of the reasons the department has adopted it, said spokesman Bowen Osoko, adding officers deal with over 2,000 stolen-bike files in a typical year, but many more than that are taken. “The reality is a lot of bikes that are stolen aren’t reported to us.”

Osoko said the department currently has free use of the app, but there are some subscriptions services that are offered. The company also sells decals to generate funds for the app.

Doing away with the bike registry frees up the reserve constables and records staff who ran it, while additions to the registry have stopped and all information on record will be deleted by June 30, he said. The computerized registry started in 2015 and processed stolen bicycles much the same way that stolen vehicles and other goods are.

It was decided eventually, however, that 529 Garage provided greater efficiency.

The system was created in 2013 to promote cycling and reduce bike theft.

“Over the last two decades, bike theft in North America has grown to epidemic proportions — affecting about two million riders each year,” the 529 Garage website says. “Beyond the half-billion-dollar cycling black market, many stolen bikes are involved in secondary crimes — serving as a modern getaway vehicle for criminals.

“Our strategy is simple — galvanize riders, shops, police, schools and cities with a common set of tools that allow communities to become better organized than the criminals.”

Nanaimo RCMP Const. Gary O’Brien said 529 Garage has been used in Nanaimo for the past few years and is working well.

“The public’s buying into it,” he said. “We have a tremendous amount of people, thousands of people, who are signing up for it now.”

O’Brien said the detachment maintains a database for 529 Garage, as well. “It’s been very successful in having bikes returned that were dumped or stolen.”

An important part of the system is that someone whose bike has been stolen can activate an alert, O’Brien said.

jbell@timescolonist.com

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