Busting Bike Thieves by Twitter

Social network nabs pedal perps

pink wheel bike

One pink wheel left remains thieves stole the rest of of this bike. The San Francisco Police Department is using Twitter to better police these crimes.     Photo: Lisa Risager/Wikimedia

In a city where only four out of every 25 bicycles recovered by local police were returned to their owners last year, Twitter is becoming an essential tool in curbing bicycle theft.

In July, the San Francisco Police Department set up a Twitter account (@sfpdbiketheft) for residents to report stolen bicycles, post photographs of their missing bikes, and upload photos of suspected bike thieves. Most bike thefts go unreported, SFPD officer Mike Friedman recently told the San Francisco Chronicle. In 2012, the SFPD received only 817 actual reports of bike thefts or attempts out of the 4,085 bicycles stolen last year, according to a report by the city's budget and legislative analyst.

"You see a suspicious guy with a bike, you run the serial number and it comes back negative, so what you have is a guy with an expensive bike," Friedman told the Chronicle. "What do you arrest him for? It's the same with chop shops. If I'm going to take somebody's liberties away, I've got to have proof."

Twitter has been giving police officers that proof, and after only four months, the account has already been used to return a stolen pedicab to it's owner and connect a suspect to a burglary.

"[Bike theft is] just an ongoing issue that the SFPD is continually responding to," Friedman said in the Chronicle. "We need more people to actually report bike theft, to know their serial numbers, and to take pictures of their bikes."

Check out recent tweets below

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