Online registry hopes to reunite owners with their stolen bikes

Click to play video: 'Free app helps prevent bike theft'
Free app helps prevent bike theft
WATCH ABOVE: Bike theft continues to be a big problem across the city, particularly on university campuses. Cyclists are being urged to register their bike using a smartphone app. Emily Mertz has the details – May 18, 2017

Bicycle theft is a big problem on the University of Alberta campus. Over the last four years, protective services has seen a 248-per cent spike in bike thefts on north campus. So far in 2017, 16 bicycles have been reported stolen.

So, when the city approached the school about a website and app that could tackle the issue and bring those numbers down, the U of A was all ears.

“It’s very impactful,” said Sgt. Stephanie Hartwig, a peace officer on campus. “Today I spoke with a gentleman, he had his $1,000 bike stolen. It’s his only mode of transportation. He’s a retiree and he doesn’t know if he’s going to have the money to purchase another one.”

READ MORE: Woman sees online photo of her bike being stolen by alleged thief, then stumbles upon him 

Project 529 Garage was created by an avid cyclist whose bike was stolen and wanted to prevent the same thing from happening to others. It’s an online registry that tracks bicycle ownership information and can be used to help locate bikes in the event they’re stolen.

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“They sign up with their email address and start entering all their bike’s pertinent information and anything that’s relevant — make, model, year, cost, those types of things, as well as their serial number,” said Connie Marciniuk, a community safety liaison with the city.

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“We know individuals are more likely to report their bike as stolen if they have their serial number and they’re more likely to be reunited with their bike if they have that serial number and they can match one and the other together.”

Project 529 Garage is country-wide and has a free app available on Google Play and the App Store.

“When you have those pieces of information, you feel more in control,” Marciniuk said.

READ MORE: Fighting Kelowna bicycle thieves with new online program 

Anyone can download the app and use the online registry. Marciniuk hopes other post-secondary school campuses will adopt it and that use eventually spreads to the city as a whole.

“One of  the successes [Project 529 Garage] had — and it was a huge success — in Granville Island, they had an 80-some per cent decrease in the number of thefts they had on Granville, which is one of the highest bike theft locations.”
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Officials are also reminding cyclists to properly lock their bikes. They recommend a U-lock that locks up both the frame and the front wheel.

If you see a bike theft in progress, call police.

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