Cops Launch Etching Program Amid Bike Theft Spike

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Marilyn Morrissey

This Purple Trek hybrid bike with 2 metal rear baskets was stolen Aug. 31, 2014 on Lamartine Street.

This Purple Trek hybrid bike with 2 metal rear baskets was stolen Aug. 31, 2014 on Lamartine Street.

Marilyn Morrissey

This Purple Trek hybrid bike with 2 metal rear baskets was stolen Aug. 31, 2014 on Lamartine Street.

Boston Police have taken notice of the recent upswing in bike thefts around JP. On Wednesdays, you can stop by the JP police station and they'll etch your ride with a unique identifier.

One recent long weekend saw at least nine separate thefts — some of them of multiple bikes. In response, police in the E-13 District will now use an etching tool to put a unique mark on your ride. Just stop by the police station at 3345 Washington St. on Wednesdays from noon to four for the free service, said Sergeant Beth Leary. Bicyclists can also make an appointment if that window doesn't work for them.

"A lot of times we get these bikes and there’s no way of contacting the owner," Leary said.

To make your bike a harder target for thieves, she recommends securing your ride to something that can't be moved. Even your porch might not be safe, she notes, as thieves can remove a railing spindle and spirit your bike away.

Some victims haven't taken even basic precautions.

"Some of the bikes that were stolen weren’t secured at all," Leary said. "We’re asking people to try to tighten up their property."

Even if you put your bike in a shed, lock it up, she said.

Police say if you can, remove your front wheel and take it with you. Using two different types of locks also helps, as thieves need to move fast. Defeating two systems takes time. Some thieves also only carry one tool.

Police can't recommend a particular brand of lock, but many bike organizations recommend using one U-shaped lock paired with a cable-type system.

In at least one recent case, multiple bikes were stolen. That could mean the thief is using a van or truck. So Leary said if you see an unfamiliar van on your street, don't hesitate to dial 911.

"We won't mind if it's nothing," Leary said.

Boston Police have flagged the spike in JP bike thefts to MBTA police and sent out community alerts, she said.

Here's a video from a San Francisco bike group that shows proper locking technique.

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