The San Francisco Police Department estimated in a report this year that over 4,000 bicycles were stolen in the city in 2012. Police recovered 864 of those, but only got 142 back to their owners. So one enterprising officer, Matt Friedman, started a Twitter account devoted to bike theft, @SFPDBikeTheft, to help close that gap.
The account, which went live last Friday, puts out stolen bike alerts, pictures of bikes the SFPD has recovered, and tips to prevent getting a bike stolen in the first place.
The SFPD report said many people don’t check with police after their bike is stolen, making it hard to connect found bikes with their owners. Friedman said he thinks the Twitter account will help by putting a public face on the SFPD’s efforts to combat theft.
But the Twitter account is just one of the ways the SFPD is tackling the bike theft issue. San Francisco is starting a citywide bike registry so residents can register their bicycle’s unique serial number. This will streamline the process of getting a stolen bike back, making it easier for police to track down the proper owner.
The police department is also conducting a bike baiting campaign, where they leave a poorly locked bike in a public place and monitor it, as a way to catch thieves in the act. The anti-bike theft Twitter account says these operations are going positively, but says the police can’t provide more details.
For more stories on how people use Twitter to recover stolen bikes, check out Citizens solve bike theft crimes with social media.