Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bike Theft - The Stolen Bike To Do List and My Condolences

It's been nearly a week since my beloved blue Diamondback cruiser was snatched at night from the side of my house. The frenzy to find it has subsided and I intend to replace it. It was my fourth bicycle stolen during 17 years living in Santa Cruz, California. This latest incident led me to reflect on my stolen bikes, how to prevent future theft and the wonderful nature of fellow cyclists. If you have had your bike stolen, first, let me say, I am so sorry. It can be a heartbreaking experience.

Friends, acquaintances, even strangers rallied around me and my stolen bike tale of woe with an outpouring of generosity, sympathy and offers ranging from becoming my personal body guard to pursuing vigilante-style justice for the thief. One gal offered to host a neighborhood gathering led by a non-violent communications facilitator.  To my fellow cyclists, one and all, thank you!

For those of you wanting to protect your bikes, some tips
In three out of four cases of my stolen bikes (two cruisers and two mountain bikes), I had left them unlocked in daytime for a period of mere minutes or hours; they were snatched by people trespassing onto my deck or yard. No matter the circumstances, with each theft, I felt angry, violated and mad at myself that I had not taken steps to better protect my personal property.

 Don't mess with me! I took this self- portrait with a new, hardcore bike lock to show I mean business in protecting my bicycles after my latest bike theft!

Homeland Security
Also as a result of the crimes, I felt more vulnerable. After the most recent theft of my Diamondback cruiser from outside my house last Thursday night, I had sensor lights installed and am vigilant about leaving two porch lights on to illuminate the whole area at dusk and night time.

Steps to Protect Bike
1. Photograph all bikes, taking note of make, model, brand, serial number and accessories.
2. *** Register each bike with the police. See detailed procedure on how to do this in Santa Cruz.
For your city, I suggest you contact your local police department to find out the steps to take.
3. Lock your bike(s) at all times. Surprisingly, this can become a hassle, but it's necessary - inside and outside - lock them! That includes when they are:
On your bike rack on the car, inside your car, in your storage unit, in your garage, in your shed, on your porch, in your kitchen!

If your bike gets stolen, report it immediately:
1. To the police. Some places, like Santa Cruz, have a handy online police report to fill out. After I submitted the form, I received an email response that included a case number. I reported it even tho I had never registered it with police (my oversight).
I hope you won't need to file a stolen bike report but if you do, here's the website.  http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/index.aspx?page=68
2. Online. Immediately alert your family, friends and bike shops in the area. Ideally, post photos of the bike if you have some.
3. Renter's Insurance/Lock Guarantee. If your bike lock was broken, some companies, like Kyrptonite, have replacement offers. You must register your lock/keys when you purchase the bike lock. Your renter's or homeowner's insurance may cover the theft, as well.

If You Want to Search
Many friends had suffered bike thefts too, and suggested searching for the bike in these places.
I did not pursue this route, in part, because the value of my bike was quite low, and also not sure how a confrontation with a thief or supsected thief, would play out. I would want police backup.
• Craigslist (under bikes for sale)
• Local flea market
• Used bicycle shops - sometimes the frame or parts will surface there

On the bright side - YES, there was one
I was reminded of what a warm, wonderful bike community I belong to.
I welcome your thoughts and resources on how to protect your bicycle!

Bike Licenses in Santa Cruz, California
10.68.110 BICYCLE LICENSE REQUIREMENT It is unlawful for any person to operate a bicycle on any public street or sidewalk, or upon any public path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles, unless such bicycle, as defined in this section, has been licensed under the provisions of this chapter or under licensing provisions of another public agency.

A “bicycle,” defined for licensing requirements under this section, is any device upon which a person may ride, propelled by human power through a belt, chain, or gears, and having either two or three wheels in tandem or tricycle arrangement, and which has wheels at least twenty inches in diameter and a frame of at least fourteen inches; or any motorized bicycle as defined by the State Vehicle Code.

You can obtain a license through the City Finance Department
Call 831-420-5050
I called and learned:
Each bike costs $3 to register. Make sure you come in with the basic info for each bike, including, serial number, frame size, wheel size, company that made it, etc. You'll need to come the office in person and pay cash or check made out to City of Santa Cruz.
Office: 809 Center Street, Room 101
Hours: Monday- Thursday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
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