The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has finally figured out something that we've all long known: bike theft is a serious problem in the city. It's such an epidemic that a report issued by the Board of Supervisors Budget & Legislative Analyst revealed that the value of the city's stolen bikes topped $4.63m for the year of 2012, and the theft rate in the Mission's legislative district increased 348% since 2010.
In fact, bike thefts outpace iPhone thefts 3:1, despite—as the SF Bike Coalition points out—iPhone theft “has gotten widespread media and police attention, while bike theft has not.” (To be fair, iPhones help us do disruptively helpful things like fling cartoon birds at cartoon pigs and summon cabs, whereas bikes are only useful for fun and transportation. Also, iPhone owners relentlessly complain about everything (battery life, AT&T, font choices, BART laborers, Tartine's lines, the Giants' 2013 season), so the police quite understandably don't want to be the other side of that tsunami of tears. But I digress…)
The report states that many of the usual factors are fueling the trend: insufficient secure bike parking, people not knowing how to properly lock their bikes, owners not being able to identify their stolen bike for police recovery. But more concerning is the lack of SFPD enforcement, confirming that bike theft is a relatively “risk-free crime” in SF:
There is no central SFPD approach to bicycle theft. While individual SFPD stations devote staff and resources to investigating bicycle theft as well as attempting to reconnect recovered bicycles with their owners, other stations devote little to no time investigating such cases. This is largely due to competing priorities and insufficient staffing levels. SFPD staff report that bicycle theft is typically a lower priority when other, more serious crimes are on the rise.
But instead of merely recognizing the problem, the Board of Supervisor's are looking to do something about it. Supervisor Eric Mar, who initially called for the report and has been the victim of bike theft himself, added a $75,000 line item to this year's city budget to create a voluntary bike registration database, making it easier for SFPD to track stolen bicycles and reunite recovered bikes with their owners. Additionally, the report calls for SFPD to create a dedicated bike theft unit, increase enforcement in bike theft hot spots, increase the number of undercover “bike-bating” sting operations to catch thieves, and create an online database of stolen bikes so buyers can determine if they are purchasing stolen goods.