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Fight Bicycle Theft With the Open Source Bike Registry 135

Posted by timothy
from the only-steal-the-yellow-bikes dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "No one wants to buy a stolen bike, but if you see a bike you're interested in on Craigslist or at a flea market, there isn't a good way to know if it's stolen. Now Kickstarter has an interesting project that is looking for funding to expand a searchable database that will help users protect their bikes by permanently saving the bike's serial number. 'We regularly saw people trying to sell stolen bikes, and would search for the bikes online — but it was too difficult to find definitive information about them because too few people save their serial numbers,' says Seth Herr, founder of the Bike Index and lead developer of the project. Herr envisions Bike Index as a way to solve the 'awareness problem' — awareness of existing registries and of a bike's identifying information. 'A common problem when people get their bikes stolen is that it's like the first time the owner thinks about "What was my serial number?" and other details that are important in recovering a stolen bike,' says Marcus Moore. If every bike shop integrated Bike Index registration at the point of sale, that would make it easy for victims of bike theft to accurately report a stolen bike, and for bike purchasers to verify that they aren't buying stolen goods. The Project plans to collaborate with Bryan Hance, the founder of stolenbikeregistry.com, one of the Internet's first-ever registries to track stolen bikes, which already has almost 20,000 bicycles in its registry."
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Fight Bicycle Theft With the Open Source Bike Registry

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  • Good luck with that! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by itsme1234 (199680)

    I was saying the same about IMSIs earlier ... we can't agree on what's the decimal separator, if today is 12/10 or 10/12, user1@gmail.com can't chat to user2@yahoo.com but somehow we'll get a reasonable percentage of the owners AND buyers to register in some specific database. Good luck with that.

    Not only that but it also assumes you can't tamper with the serial and doesn't address what happens if somebody starts to spam the DB.

    • by itsme1234 (199680)

      ... for who's paying attention: I meant IMEIs of course.

      • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

        Also, the registry assumes that anybody buying off of craigslist cares. Ftfs:

        No one wants to buy a stolen bike

        [citation needed]

        • by gregor-e (136142)
          Anyone who cares about whether they're buying a stolen bike should ask the seller for the serial number. Thieves will balk at providing it, whereas legit sellers should have no problem.
          • You might've stumbled onto the best solution yet; ask Craigslist and other online market places to require sellers to list the serial number of the bike (frame) they're selling. If the number's been filed off, then it simply can't be sold.
            • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

              1) without stolen goods and prostitution CL would go out of business
              2) no problem for me, my serial number is 12345. like the combination for my luggage lock!

              • by chromas (1085949)
                Uh, hi, I'd like to report that noh8rz10 is trying to sell my stolen luggage. I know this because he has my serial number and combination. Is this the right place?
    • that every bike ad include a serial number, and have a link to the database at the top of the Bikes for Sale page. Tampering would not be easy,SNs are stamped into the frame. Spamming the DB could be a problem
      • by Joce640k (829181)

        The database could be maintained by the Police. Only reported stolen bikes would be on it.

        • ... to waste maintaining a useless database.

          Some people have no clue of how real life works.

        • What makes you think bike theft is any sort of priority for police? They can't make money from it.

          • Sure they do. They regularly have auctions where they sell recovered stolen property, and usually have an excellent selection of very nice bikes.

            • they sell recovered stolen property

              Well that's just fucked up to begin with... they should be returning the property to its rightful owner!

              • They do, but lots of stuff can't be returned because people don't mark their property/track their serial numbers, and you can't just have people look through the pile and go "that's mine and that's mine".

                So that stuff people can positively identify as being theirs is returned, and the rest gets auctioned off.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            It does when they're the ones doing the thieving [vivianpaige.com].

            Apparently there was a little know ordinance that you had to have your bike registered with the city. I didn't know anyone that did or even know that you had to. If the police asked about your bike and it wasn't registered, they could impound it on the spot. But cops being cops, they were confiscating a lot of bikes from lower income neighborhoods while leaving more affluent areas alone. Then they would sell the bikes at auction. I believe they repealed th

          • by manu0601 (2221348)
            Police is a for-profit organization in your country? That looks like a recipe for disaster.
        • by xaxa (988988)

          The British police run Immobilise.com: https://www.immobilise.com/ [immobilise.com] which takes serial numbers of anything, including bicycles.

          They say they check it when they find stolen property -- it helps them, as it's extra evidence that everything in the garage is stolen, not just the single item the thief was carrying when he was followed.

      • by russotto (537200) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @05:23PM (#45110545) Journal

        that every bike ad include a serial number, and have a link to the database at the top of the Bikes for Sale page.

        If I were a thief, I'd just post a wrong serial number. Just switch two digits or some other "honest" error. Most likely, no one would ever check.

    • by TWX (665546)

      Not only that but it also assumes you can't tamper with the serial and doesn't address what happens if somebody starts to spam the DB.

      I think it's worse than that. This'll only work if it's compulsory and if access is controlled through an otherwise-disinterested third party. Do you want to have to deal with the equivalent of a motor-vehicle-department in order to register a purchase of a bike and to notify on sale or theft?

      This isn't like cell phones, where having only a handful of companies denying

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The scheme also wrongfully assumes all buyers actually want to deter bike theft. I assure there are allot of people who would gladly buy a stolen bike at half the price fully aware the bike is "a steal" so to speak. In the extremely unlikely case that you are are caught buying, if collaborate fully (return the bike, give full info on the seller etc.) you face no criminal liability.

      Buying stolen goods is virtually unprosecutable because it's requires proving knowledge of the theft. If the serial is torn off

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Buying stolen goods is virtually unprosecutable because it's requires proving knowledge of the theft.

        However, possession of stolen goods is a slam-dunk, and a lot of police departments don't really care how you got them.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Bike registries make the incorrect assumption that people buying stolen bikes don't want to buy a stolen bike. They want a cheap bike and know that stolen ones are the cheapest.

  • This is retarded (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rebelwarlock (1319465) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @11:20AM (#45108569)
    If your bike is stolen by someone dumb enough to sell it as-is, this would work great. But most bike thieves dismantle it, shuffle the parts, repaint everything, and file those numbers off. How will a registry help you then?
    • it's obviously stolen. Agreed, this won't help the parting-out, but if it makes the frame unsellable, that's a hit to the thief.
      • by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Saturday October 12, 2013 @11:43AM (#45108695) Journal
        It only makes it unsellable to people who would bother to check such a registry in the first place... which are the same people who wouldn't have bought a bike they couldn't check or were able to find that it was stolen in the first place. It doesn't harm the seller in the least.
        • by swillden (191260)

          It only makes it unsellable to people who would bother to check such a registry in the first place... which are the same people who wouldn't have bought a bike they couldn't check or were able to find that it was stolen in the first place. It doesn't harm the seller in the least.

          That's too strong. I think there are a fair number of people who would check a bike registry if it were available, and would be skeptical of a bike with its numbers filed off (and might only notice the numbers were removed if they were trying to look it up in a registry), but wouldn't think twice about buying a used bike in the absence of a way to check. Making checks generally more accurate and the capability more widely known would reduce the seller's potential market... which does harm the seller. Lower

          • by mark-t (151149)
            I'd hope you're right that it leads to some improvement. I fear, it won't, however, since as I said... so many stolen bikes have their identifying serials filed right off.
    • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

      Dude, we're talking bicycles not motorbikes

      • So? Just the brakes on my commuter bicycle (not motorbike) cost about EUR400. It can be worth it just to steal it for parts.

        • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

          So? Just the brakes on my commuter bicycle (not motorbike) cost about EUR400. It can be worth it just to steal it for parts.

          lolwut? commuter bikes are supposed to be replaceable, because they get beat up so much. i understand a road bike costing that much, becasue they'll take as much money as you have.

          my whole commuter bike cost $450 -> 300 EUR. it was super solid for 3 years until ironically in the spirit of this thread it was stolen (lock was clipped). pro tip - save money where it doesn't make much difference, and spend money where it makes a big difference. some free advice for you.

          • I spend 3500-5000 km every year on my commuter bike. I want it to be as comfortable as possible. If it results in a full suspension frame, fancy hydraulic brakes (Brakeforce One in this case) and carbon parts here and there, so be it. I use a good lock, many parts are secured with pinhead skewers and the bike is insured as well.

            Oh, by the way, I don't really need pro tips, I build my bikes myself.

            • Fancy suspension I can understand, but Hydraulic brakes? Does that really make a difference for comfort? What makes them any better than a decent set of caliper brakes?

              • by Culture20 (968837)

                Fancy suspension I can understand, but Hydraulic brakes? Does that really make a difference for comfort? What makes them any better than a decent set of caliper brakes?

                The oxygen-free gold connectors keep the vibrations down when braking.

              • The modulation which is utterly missing with caliper brakes. Also, because of the bowden pull transmission losses you need to apply more force - with decent hydraulic brakes you can emergency brake with one finger. Thus, on long descents (I sort of live in the mountains) the hands don't get as tired. Well, they also work much better when it is wet outside (and it rains a lot in Germany) and they don't chew on the rim (I can build wheels, but it takes a long time).

              • by xaxa (988988)

                My bicycle has hydraulic disc brakes -- until just now I thought they were nothing too fancy, as they came with the bike, but they seem to cost about £150 new.

                They're fantastic, and I highly recommend them. The braking power is hardly affected when it's wet, it's very easy to control the braking force, and takes very little effort to brake (I could use just my little finger) so it's comfortable.

            • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

              I spend 3500-5000 km every year on my commuter bike. I want it to be as comfortable as possible. If it results in a full suspension frame, fancy hydraulic brakes (Brakeforce One in this case) and carbon parts here and there, so be it. I use a good lock, many parts are secured with pinhead skewers and the bike is insured as well.

              oh boo fucking hoo you ride 4 mi to work and 4 mi to back. you are practically lance armstrong! i think you should get a bike made out of diamond and vibranium, because that's the only thing that could possibly approach your extra-ordinary achievement.

              I'm surprised your full suspension frame can support you considering how big your head is.

              • Actually, it is 25 km one way. What is your problem anyway? You think that people either think like you or are idiots? That is a lot of self-importance.

                • You only work 100 days a year? How'd you manage that?

                • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

                  just sayin man trying to give you a little perspective. there are poor people in china who ride their bikes 500km/yr without hydraulic brakes and carbon fiber frames. I say just enjoy the ride, and don't worry about these deers!

    • I have never seen a serial number that has been filed off. They're generally pretty deeply engrave (in metal frames) and so obscuring them would threaten the structural integrity of your bottom bracket.

      Perhaps when the Bike Index is larger, this will be a bigger issue, but it hasn't been an issue yet.

      As for parting out, yes, that's a big problem. We're thinking up a clever solution for tracking parts, but we haven't yet nailed it down.

    • That sounds like a lot of work. Couldn't these highly industrious thieves you describe make a lot more money with a lot less hassle by just operating a legitimate bike customization, sales, and repair shop?

  • I somehow suspect that the kinds of people who may accidentally buy stolen goods aren't the sort who would think to check a registry first to see if the goods they wanted to buy were actually stolen... and those who would do it deliberately wouldn't care.

    For what it's worth, most stolen bikes have their serial number filed right off anyways... so it's not possible to check them in the registry. Of course, one can just refuse outright to buy a bike that they can't read the serial number of, but I suspect that people who neglect to do this may fit into the above category of person anyways.

    • Have to agree with you. I bought my bike new from a reputable dealer but can't imagine people wanting to save money will bother checking a serial number against a database. I've never even looked at the serial number on my bike.

      Maybe if there was a good chance of being prosecuted for "Possession of stolen goods" if you bought a bike that was in the database or had a filed off serial number and should have known it was stolen it would prevent theft? Put a few people who purchased stolen bikes into prison

  • by meerling (1487879) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @11:36AM (#45108669)
    It's a good start, but it's far short of optimal.
    It sounds kind of like a VIN that cars have, but more accessible to the average person to check on and not as extensive.

    Hate to say it, but where I live is the bike theft capital of the world.
    It wouldn't do much good, unless it was on each part of the bike.
    They steal everything they can, even if it's only a seat or a tire, or even the handlebars. When they have enough parts, they assemble a bike.
    The chains careful people use can often outweigh the bike. :(
    Seeing people carrying their seats or occasionally a wheel is not uncommon, and those aren't the thieves either.

    So it's a good start, but there needs to be more to really make an impact, and it's going to have to include the industry as well.
    Good luck.
    • by meerling (1487879) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @11:38AM (#45108677)
      Sorry, but I thought I'd mention this as well.
      On campus one day between classes, I walked past a bikerack that was loaded with bikes. (I was delivering something to one of the departments.) When I came back by less than 15 minutes later, the entire rack was gone, bikes and all. Like I said, we have a very active and persistent community of bike thieves here.
      • by Culture20 (968837)
        Makes me wonder if it was the thieves' bike rack that they placed there. They needed to know that their truck could hold that specific rack (and that they could lift it).
    • by Zemran (3101) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @11:45AM (#45108713) Homepage Journal

      One of my classmates at university went to where he had left his bike and all that was left was the front wheel chained to a post. As he walked off with his front wheel he met someone who had had chained his frame to a post and all that had been stolen was the front wheel...

    • The thieves aren't just taking the wheels and seats to assemble bikes later. They're marking them hoping that someone will come back to their bike without a seat or wheel will leave it there overnight rather than carry it home.

    • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

      Once I was in a coffee shop and someone stole a bungee off my bike. How lame is that!

    • Thank you! We're working on reaching more people in the industry and more retailers, and this Kickstarter has been amazingly helpful. We know it's just a start - but we're excited about the start!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The real problem is that human powered vehicles are considered second-class citizens when it comes to transportation. So it's not too surprising that when compared to a motorized vehicle, it's quite low on the priority list for law enforcement. Only places where it might be different are those locales where bicycles are considered legit transportation and may even be required to have license plates. (Perhaps a rare few cities in Asia or Europe, and that's about it.)

      It's not exactly right, but until modern s

  • Why is Craigslist so successful? A) Outstanding User experience? B) The theme selections available? C) The lack of Ads? D) The price of posting an ad: $0.00.

    Without near total market penetration with millions US bikes, and a real, secure, unalterable SID, all for free, this will no chance of success at all.

    Anyway, I'm taking my bike with me when I'm on that one-way-trip to Mars reality TV show. Less likely my bike will be stolen.

    This whole thing seems like a way for a couple of web-hackers to avoid getting

  • "What are you talking about?"
    "My bike was stolen, and it looked jut like the one you're riding. Let me see the serial number!"
    "F off."
  • UK already has this (Score:5, Informative)

    by MrL0G1C (867445) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @11:56AM (#45108785) Journal

    The UK police have regular bike registering events where you can take your bike and register it for free, otherwise the service is commercial and costs money ( http://www.bikeregister.com/ [bikeregister.com] ).

    Wiggle.co.uk simply put the serial number on the new bike check list which came with the bike, so all the customer has do do is keep that list, Can't say if other bike merchants do the same.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      When I was a kid I remember they also had a similar bike registration drive. This was in the US though. It's clearly not new. What might be new is a central registration system that encompasses the world over. One of the problems that exist in the eastern United States or did was that gangs would drive around the suburbs picking up kids bikes and then exporting container loads of bikes to the third world for resale. It actuality its probably going to have little to no impact on bike theft.

      What would probabl

    • by SpzToid (869795)

      In the Netherlands, the police regularly setup engraving points throughout the city every Wednesday, with a posted schedule & route. Anyone can stop, get their bicycle engraved and registered for free. So the police have the database everyone looks to.

      Bike theft has been such a problem, the current rules upon being caught buying *or* selling a stolen bicycle require a mandatory night in jail, plus other treats. Bike theft has since declined.

      There has also been a program where you can implant an RFID chi

      • by Culture20 (968837)

        There has also been a program where you can implant an RFID chip in your bike. The idea is if a beat-cop walks buy and the scanner goes beep.... (however the program didn't take off like gangbusters as one would hope, and I'm not sure why).

        Because people realize that the police would use the RFID tags to silently keep tabs on where everyone bicycles?

    • If I remember correctly, you can also get your postal code (which in the UK has a detailed granularity) painted "indelibly" on your bike.

    • by K10W (1705114)

      The UK police have regular bike registering events where you can take your bike and register it for free, otherwise the service is commercial and costs money ( http://www.bikeregister.com/ [bikeregister.com] ).

      Wiggle.co.uk simply put the serial number on the new bike check list which came with the bike, so all the customer has do do is keep that list, Can't say if other bike merchants do the same.

      problem is custom builds as you can't register all the serials of every part. My heavyduty XC is a self build and the brakes alone cost more than a lot of frames, it's a high end frame and my BB and crank alone is £180. I hand picked everything right down to proper heat-treated steel bolts and the type of grease in different parts and most those parts are sought after. Even the partially worn chainrings are still saleable since they are the 7005 blackspire 5 arms on an adaptable spider (takes any ring

      • by MrL0G1C (867445)

        There is a description box which you could put serials in to, although I don't know if that can be changed at a later date, that would be a flaw if true.

        • by K10W (1705114)
          ah I'll look into doing that since I've been meaning to register it since close friend who cycles professionally had 3 stolen from her house in a row. Hard to hide it when people know you cycle and correctly assume you have expensive bike. My advice was to put a shotgun shell in a shim inside the seatpost and a piece of wood with crude firing pin stuck in it. Loosen the collar so it slips suddenly under full seated weight and byebye bike thief rectum. Of course I was joking but now I think about it ;)
  • If every bike shop integrated Bike Index registration at the point of sale, that would make it easy for victims of bike theft to accurately report a stolen bike, and for bike purchasers to verify that they aren't buying stolen goods.

    Yeah, because the serial numbers and mandatory registrations have done so well to stop automotive theft.

    I fear, we'll surrender yet another bit of privacy without tangible gain...

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @12:15PM (#45108861) Homepage

      Yeah, because the serial numbers and mandatory registrations have done so well to stop automotive theft.

      They help a lot when a cop sees the car in question in between wherever it was stolen from, and the chop shop it's going to. Most importantly, it helps distinguish the stolen red Honda Civic from all of the legitimately owned red Honda Civics in the area, so the cops don't spend time chasing after the wrong car.

      The reason cops don't go heavily after bike theft is that it's a relatively petty crime: A $200 theft is a very different animal from a $20,000 theft. I just wish that they spent an appropriate level of effort on those $20,000,000 thefts out there.

  • by jrq (119773) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @12:07PM (#45108823)
    A nice idea, but carbon frames don't have a stamp, or engraved serial number. It's usually a sticker, or similar, which is easily removed or painted over.
    • Most of the time the serial number sticker is under paint or a last carbon layup - so it's tough to remove. It can be painted over - but that is obvious and suspicious.
    • If you're spending carbon frame money, why not spend a tiny fraction more on gluing rfid to the inside of the frame....

      • by jrq (119773)
        I'm not fully knowledgeable about how carbon frames are finished, but assuming that an RFID could survive the process, I think this is an excellent idea.
  • Open source? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    So where's the source code for the site?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Another tracking database....scumbags.

  • The problems and inadequacies with the system described are stated in many other posts, so I won't repeat. But I've been working on a bike theft deterrent system myself. Unfortunately, I don't feel comfortable describing my work in a public forum because my words may be used against me in court when my device executes properly. I've noticed, however, that if the case goes to a jury trial, the jury always acquits the property owner who made the booby trap. If you leave a bike poorly locked publicly in my c
  • Having some personal experience with bike theft, this is pointless. This plan relies on the premises that the stolen bikes are sold, the potential buyers give a darn that its stolen, and that the identifying marks are on the bike when it changes hands. Police don't even care no matter how expensive the bike.
    • We used to register bikes at the fire station in my neighborhood. A registry already exists. National Bicycle Registry Program: www.nationalbikeregistry.com/ or 1.800.848.BIKE (2453)
  • From time to time bicycle thieves get caught. And we really can't lock them all up for long periods due to cost restraints. A very long probation sentence with community service thrown in and the probation fees could discourage that kind of thief. For example ten years of probation with 12 hours a week of approved community service and a $100. per month probation fee might cut the mustard. Also a life time denial of a driver's license might help.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    That no one records their serial number to begin with. I got my stolen bike back because I reported it with the serial number to the police. I keep my bike serial number with my passwords. People too lazy to do this claim that the numbers just get ground off anyway. They forget that the thieves are likely even lazier. My thief was caught on my bike while fleeing a burglary. I bought my bike from the Junk King. I checked the serial numbers with the state and universal registries. Some registries charge

  • My bike has no serial. How can it get into that scheme?
    • I'm with you - I bought a 25yo steel Trek frame off of Craigslist only to find out (after repainting and rebuilding it) that it was one of several models that were built exclusively by Trek employees for themselves and therefore has no serial number. I got around this issue by posting pictures of it with my real name on fixedgeargallery.com and registering it on the local police bike registration site. Since I live in a large city, the bike shop I frequent maintains their own system of bike descriptions an
  • So long as your bike looks like shit it should not get stolen. I once had a $300 bike I rolled out of Target and it was gone in less than a week. I got a beater to replace it that looked like shit, hard forks and tail, frame scratched and covered in dirt, mismatched tires and rims, etc. Little do they know the "beater", even with it's mismatched wheels and paint ground off an "aluminum" frame is worth $1,200. I've had it for years now, and I don't even lock it at this point.

    Make everyone think it;s a worthl

    • by Tukz (664339)

      Exact same thing I do with my women.

    • by K10W (1705114)

      So long as your bike looks like shit it should not get stolen. I once had a $300 bike I rolled out of Target and it was gone in less than a week. I got a beater to replace it that looked like shit, hard forks and tail, frame scratched and covered in dirt, mismatched tires and rims, etc. Little do they know the "beater", even with it's mismatched wheels and paint ground off an "aluminum" frame is worth $1,200. I've had it for years now, and I don't even lock it at this point.

      Make everyone think it;s a worthless old huffy at first glance

      some know trust me, I peeled decals off and on rides home covered in mud I'll still get the odd groups of teenagers name the exact part to each other and shout "sick bike mate" to me. I also know someone who sprayed their frame matt black and made it look junk and they still named the exact model. Thieves and like know what they are looking for. I simply don't leave my bike anywhere it's guaranteed to get nicked. Even my decent D lock and cabled for wheels are poppable with folding cutters and a mini bottle

  • 1) Find target.
    2) Note serial
    3) Register Bike online
    4) Wait
    5) Steal Bike, claim its yours
    6) ???
    7) PROFIT!

  • We have a system that does that in the UK, I think the police fund it, it may even be possible for overseas people to use. You enter as much info as you have on the bike including a full component list, photos, and distinguishing features etc. not all bikes over here have a serial number so you need other info to keep a record.
  • there isn't a good way to know if it's stolen

    Calling the police dept and asking isn't good enough anymore? Pawn shops have used systems like this for many, many years to avoid buying stolen stuff. I had a laptop stolen from my garage about 10 years ago and the police found it when the guy that stole it tried to pawn it and the serial number popped up on the "this is stolen, don't buy this" list.

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