When Remko Schrik’s mountain bike was stolen in Penticton he never expected to see it again, let alone hear it was recovered in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
“They actually cut the trailer hitch right off the back of his pickup truck,” said Jon McLuskie, a Vancouver resident picking up the bike for his friend.
“He was defeated.”
Luckily, Schrik registered his bike with Project 529. The Vancouver-based program is the largest of its kind in the world with a registry of 800,000 searchable bikes across the globe.
“These bikes almost immediately jump postal codes because they want them to avoid detection from the victims, from local bike shops that want to be alerted to it, or local agencies,” said Project 529 founder J Allard.
Allard said a registry is needed to combat a highly sophisticated criminal network that will easily wait up to six months to place stolen bicycles on the black market.
He added that stolen bikes are part of a billion-dollar criminal industry and if it was equated to a legitimate company, “Stolen Bikes Incorporated” would be the third-largest cycling retailer in North America.
In just three years, Project 529 has led to a 30 per cent drop in bike thefts in Vancouver and a 55 per cent decline in Whistler.
Vancouver Police Deputy Chief Howard Chow said before the program, there was no way to find the owners of recovered bikes. Many would end up sold at auction.
“I hear daily about some fantastic success stories,” said Chow. “We can find out who the owner of the bike actually is.”
In fact, statistics show that Vancouver Police returns the equivalent of almost one stolen bike a day to its rightful owner.
The program has also been recognized by The World Bank and talks are underway for Project 529 to share its expertise in South America.
As Bike to Work Week officially kicks off in British Columbia, local agencies are encouraging bike owners to register with project529.com or download the 529 Garage app for free.