British Columbia

Life gets tougher for bike thieves in Delta, B.C.

Delta B.C. is the latest community in the province to team up with a smartphone app that helps identify and return stolen bicycles. 529 Garage has helped reduce bike thefts in Vancouver by 35 per cent.

Community latest to team up with 529 Garage app to reduce bike thefts

A Delta B.C. resident registers a bike with 529 Garage, a smartphone app that helps police identify stolen bicycles and return them. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Delta B.C. is the latest municipality in the province to team up with a smartphone app designed to help police identify and recover stolen bicycles.

On Saturday, the Delta Police Department launched its partnership with 529 Garage — a bike reporting and recovery network.

The app was developed in Portland, Oregon in 2013 and works by having owners register their bicycles' serial numbers, make, model and photos.

When police come across stolen bikes, they can use the app on their devices to determine the owners and find out it they were stolen.

"It puts a lot of power back in the hands of bicycle owners," said Sgt. Sarah Swallow with Delta police. "With the photos it just gives us an extra way of identifying them."

Often, owners do not register their bikes, so police have a low chance of reuniting bicycles with their owners.

During the summer in Delta, it's not unusual for a bike to be reported stolen every day, Swallow said.

App in 25 B.C. communities

The app is in place in 25 communities across B.C. In Vancouver, where up to 2,000 bikes are stolen every year, according to police, the app has helped reduce thefts by more than a third.

"To have this program in Delta makes complete sense because we're a huge supporter of cycling," said Rob Binder, a parks, recreation and culture commissioner with the city.

Volunteers with 529 Garage say the recovery of stolen bicycles helps keep ridership up. Volunteer Spence Andres said some people who have had their bikes stolen stop cycling altogether.

"So if we can get bikes back to people, we're going to keep ridership up."

The app is free to use, and volunteers say it takes about five minutes to register.

with files from Jon Hernandez.