Shocking New Report on San Francisco Bike Theft Showcases Need for Real Solutions

Today, the City of San Francisco released a comprehensive report about bike theft. The report, compiled by the Budget and Legislative Analyst, highlights the staggering amount of bike theft in our city as well as suggestions for how to combat this growing epidemic of bike theft in San Francisco.

An all too common sight in San Francisco

The report includes key data about the cost and amount of bike theft in San Francisco. Among the findings:

  • There has been a 70% increase in bike theft in San Francisco in just five years, a number that mirrors the increase in ridership.
  • 4.085 bikes were stolen in San Francisco in 2012.
  • The number of bike thefts in 2012 outnumbered iPhone theft by 3:1. iPhone theft is an issue that has gotten widespread media and police attention, while bike theft has not.
  • $4.6 million dollars in property loss from bike theft in 2012, and this number does include stolen bike parts like wheels, saddles and lights.
  • District 6, in San Francisco’s downtown and Soma neighborhoods, accounted for 40% of all bike theft in the city in 2012, though bike theft occurred/is a problem in every neighborhood.

“For the first time, we have data to support what San Francisco bike riders, unfortunately, know far too well: that bike theft is a significant problem in San Francisco and a deterrent to more people bicycling,” said Leah Shahum, Executive Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “Until today, the City;s recognition of and action to improve the pervasive problem of bike theft has been lacking at best. We are encouraged to finally see a plan of action moving forward to combat bike theft and urge City leaders, particularly our Police Department, to prioritize real action.”

Supervisor Eric Mar, who called for this report, said, “This report shows some really scary numbers. With an estimated 4,000 bike thefts in 2012, we clearly need to be develop a plan across agencies to address this issue.”

Like many San Franciscans, Supervisor Mar has had multiple bikes stolen, one recently from his locked garage. Supervisor David Chiu, who signed on in support of this report, has also had bikes stolen.

The report calls for a recommended plan of action that would reduce bike theft in San Francisco. The recommendations are in line with what the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has been urging for years.

  • Among the recommendations for reducing bike theft:
  • Develop a Citywide Voluntary Bicycle Registration of serial numbers and information to make it easier to track stolen bikes and to return those bikes to the rightful owner if they are found. Currently, it is very difficult for the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to reunite recovered bikes and their owners.
  • Identify bike theft hot spots and enforce those areas.
  • Create a Bicycle Theft Unit in the SFPD to focus attention on reducing the pervasive crime.
  • Conduct Bike-Baiting Operations to catch bike thieves and break up bicycle theft rings. These have proven successful in the past.
  • Increase Secure Bicycle Parking.

Increase Bike Theft Education to teach riders how to properly lock their bikes and best practices for avoiding theft.
Open Source Information of Stolen and Recovered Bicycles: An online database recovered bicycles, mapping of high theft areas and a database that allows a buyer of a used bike to check if it’s stolen.

“We’re pleased to see a report calling for increased enforcement and a voluntary registration program that would make it easier for people to recover their stolen bikes. We urge the police to act on this registration quickly and the District Attorney’s office to take prosecution of bike theft seriously,” said Leah Shahum.

To learn more about the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s extensive work to combat bike theft, including how to lock your bike safely, what to do in case of bike theft and free bicycle education classes that teach proper bike locking, visit sfbike.org/theft.

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