Stickers keep thieves from monkeying with bikes

'Monkey Shield' stickers help get stolen bicycles back to owners

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

 
photoSpecially designed and difficult to remove "Monkey Shield "stickers will alert police officers that the bicycle's owner has registered their bike, making it easier to reunite stolen bicycles with their rightful owners.

(/The Columbian)

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Vancouver cyclists now have a new way to combat theft: a silver sticker bearing the face of an angry monkey.

The program, called "Monkey Shield," was launched last week after months of collaboration between the Vancouver Police Department, Bad Monkey Bikes and Bike Clark County.

The program allows bicycle owners to register their bikes at the downtown Vancouver bike store, allowing the store to keep track of the brand, model and serial number of the bike, along with the owner's contact information. A theft-resistant sticker is applied to the frame of the bike, so if it is stolen and later recovered, police have a quick way of finding the owner.

The idea for the program was born a few months ago when Vancouver Police Officer Drue Russell walked into Bad Monkey Bikes with a problem: two dozen stolen bicycles that had been recovered sat in the agency's evidence warehouse.

"We have no way of identifying the owner," he said. Most bike owners, Russell said, don't keep track of their serial numbers.

Russell had also been fielding complaints of bike thefts among neighborhood groups and was eager to make a dent in the crime.

So far in 2013, Vancouver police has taken 96 reports of stolen bikes. Of the bikes that the agency recovers, 15 have been returned to their owners but 24 remain unclaimed. After 30 days of remaining in the warehouse, Russell said the bikes are auctioned off.

Wade Leckie, owner of Bad Monkey Bikes, told Russell about a system he already had in place: bikes purchased from his store included registration and one of the monkey stickers. If those bikes were returned to the store, Leckie called the owner to let them know.

"Basically, we just extended the registration to all bikes," he said.

The program cost the city of Vancouver a couple hundred dollars to print theft-resistant stickers and was funded by a federal grant earmarked for bicycle mobility.

Russell said that the service would have been time-consuming for the police department to implement, and he added that bike shop is centrally located and familiar among cyclists.

Eric Giacchino, president of Bike Clark County, helped in the collaboration and said he's excited that the program is kicking off.

Bike Clark County, a volunteer organization that promotes bicycle education and advocacy, fell victim to bike theft last summer when 16 bikes were stolen.

"All of these groups came together and asked, 'What can we do?'" Giacchino said. "Getting the bikes back to their owners is going to be cool."

Leckie said the service is one he's happy to provide. The frustrating facts, he said, is that thieves carry special tools such as a hydraulics cutter or a saw used to cut down small trees.

"I feel (bike theft) as much as everyone else," he said. "I just want to help the community because the community is what keeps me open."

Emily Gillespie: 360-735-4522; http://www.twitter.com/col_cops;emily.gillespie@columbian.com.