07 March 2019

Together, They Are Better Than Nothing

In October, Anchorage (Alaska) Assembly member Christopher Constant introduced an ordinance that would have required the city's bicycle owners to register their bikes on a free online database, or face fines.  

I've never been to Alaska, so perhaps my perception of its people is a stereotype:  If nothing else, they are rugged individualists.  Somehow I don't think people end up there by following the crowd.

Whatever the truth about them may be, the citizens of The Last Frontier's largest city lived up to my perception when their outcry over the fines forced Constant to withdraw his proposal.

While bike registration isn't a deterrent against theft and certainly doesn't guarantee that a stolen bike will be reunited with its owner, it does make it easier to get the bike back to whoever bought, rides and loves it.  And registering the bike, and keeping a record of the bike's serial number in your own records will make it easier to prove that a bike is yours--especially if it's a common model--if it is recovered.

All of that, of course, assumes that the serial number is still on the bike.  As often as not, if the bike ends up in a "chop shop", the serial number is removed.  The same thing often happens to other stolen items that are re-sold. In Alaska, those items include propane tanks.

Constant--the same assembly member who introduced the failed bike-registration mandate--has just introduced another law that would make it a misdemeanor to remove a serial number from a bicycle or any other merchandise.  It passed unanimously on Tuesday night.

I concur with Austin Quinn-Davidson, another Anchorage Assembly member, who said that this measure won't, by itself, do much to combat theft.  She believes thieves will simply find ways to do their work without tampering with serial numbers.  While the new law is a "first step," the city needs to "come in and get registration up," she said.

She is right, but even the combination of registration and a ban on removing serial numbers will only put a dent in the city's bicycle theft epidemic, just as similar measures in other places would help, if only somewhat.

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