Cape police hoping more use bike registration program

Thursday, March 15, 2012
These stolen bicycles recovered by Cape Girardeau police are in storage Wednesday. (Fred Lynch)

While Cape Girardeau cyclists took to the streets to ride in Wednesday's warm weather, dozens of bicycles sat unused in the basement of a police-owned building.

The bicycles have rightful owners, and most are in good condition but still sit in a dark, mud-filled basement. The building's bike population only grows, too. More than 40 bicycles are placed there every year, and most don't touch pavement until they're sold at police auctions, which occur once a year. Even then, not all the bikes are sold.

The building is where police put stolen bicycles that have been recovered. Of the dozens of bicycles that find their way into the house every year, roughly 15 are returned to their owners, police spokesman Darin Hickey said.

To stymie the influx of stolen bicycles into the house, the Cape Girardeau Police Department has implemented a free bike registration system that traces stolen bicycles back to their owners.

"If you register, you have a much better chance of getting your bike returned to you," patrolman Richard Couch said. Couch heads the program and says the task has not been too strenuous. One person has registered a bicycle since the program was implemented in early December.

Couch said he had hoped parents who had given bicycles to their children for Christmas would register their bicycles.

People can print a form off the department's website, www.cityofcapegirardeau.org/police, and submit it to the department. Applicants must make an appointment and bring identification and their bicycle to the department to register. Police will also be available to register bikes at parks and recreation events, Couch said.

Officers will note the bicycle's identifying characteristics and enter the information into a bicycle database. A registration sticker with a unique number will be placed on the bicycle. If a bike is reported stolen and later found with the sticker intact, police will contact its owner, Couch said.

Last year, 56 bicycles were reported stolen and 42 were found, Hickey said. In 2010, 55 were reported stolen and 42 were found, while in 2009, 38 stolen bicycles were reported and 59 were found.

Police will occasionally raid a suspect's home and find several stolen bicycles, Hickey said. Ten to 15 of the recovered bicycles are given back to their rightful owners every year, but bike registration could help that number grow.

"People can paint a bike, change its handle bars or wheels, but they're going to have a tough time getting that sticker off," Hickey said.

Bicycles' values can range from $140 to $13,000, Cape Bicycle Cycling and Fitness manager Don Hinkebein said. During spring and summer, not a month goes by where Hinkebein doesn't hear about stolen bicycles.

Hinkebein has not yet registered his bicycle but plans to do so soon.

"It will really help the cycling community," said Hinkebein, who described Cape Girardeau's cyclist population as "vibrant." Hinkebein estimates there are 1,500 active cyclists in the city.

To prevent bike theft, Hinkebein suggests cyclists lock their bikes and be aware of surroundings.

"I also encourage them to register their bikes," he said.

psullivan@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

40 South Sprigg Street, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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