An average of one bike is stolen every day in the city of Corvallis.
Now, in conjunction with National Bike Month, the Corvallis Police Department is cracking down on what they’re calling the “bike theft epidemic” with a large-scale education, prevention and enforcement initiative planned for a rollout throughout the year.
While enforcement efforts are planned to ramp up this fall, police are launching the first crime prevention phase this month with a free bike registration and education event set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Law Enforcement Center at 180 N.W. Fifth St.
“People underestimate how often bikes go missing,” said Officer Trevor Anderson, a community livability officer leading the new initiative. “And unfortunately so many of these stolen bikes aren’t registered, so they’re never returned even if they’re recovered.”
According to Corvallis Police Department statistics, 360 bicycles were reported stolen in 2015 with a reported loss value of $278,556, and in 2014, 387 bicycles were reported stolen with a reported loss of $319,838. Anderson estimated that between 15 and 30 recovered bicycles are auctioned off each month because no owner information is available. Police have recovered so many stolen bicycles that most are kept at an offsite storage facility as there isn’t enough space in local evidence rooms.
“There have been countless times where we come across bikes we know are stolen, and I can’t prove it’s stolen because we can’t find an owner,” Anderson said. “So it sits in our evidence for a long time.”
Anderson said not all bikes are lost — an estimated 1 in 10 recovered bikes have registration and are returned to their owners. In an effort to increase those odds, police are teaming up with Portland-based recovery service Project 529 and a bicycle-registration app known as 529 Garage.
Traditional registration involves visiting public safety offices and filling out forms. But the 529 Garage app allows cyclists to capture critical details of a bicycle through their smartphones or at www.project529.com, so that in the event of a theft, victims can immediately alert police or other cyclists on social networks, Anderson said.
“When we recover a bicycle with registration, we can get on the phone with an owner within five minutes and get that bike back to them immediately,” Anderson said. “That saves us sifting through stolen bicycle reports for a possible match.”
Police are planning several more registration and education events throughout the summer — possibly two events each month — leading up to a larger enforcement and education push this fall, Anderson said.
“Our bike theft numbers jump every year when the students come back into town,” Anderson said. “Registration is just one part of this holistic look. I’m hoping this makes a significant dent in not only the number of bikes stolen, but the number of bikes we can get back to people.”
In addition to the increased effort in the fall, Corvallis police are planning to post educational fliers around the city in hopes of raising awareness of the new initiative among the community as a whole.
“This is a very bike-friendly community,” said Lt. Dan Duncan of the Corvallis Police Department. “So this is not just aimed at students. Everyone who has a bike can become a victim, not just students.”