What to do after your bike has been stolen in the Bay Area

Help us help you get your stolen bike back


Hi. I’m sorry your bike was stolen.

Don’t despair — there are many great people working to combat bike theft, and a whole community ready to help you try and get your bike back.

Right now, though, there are several things we need you to do:

  1. File a police report. Don’t just do it online — if you can, make an officer come and take a report.

Let me stress that again: Do NOT JUST register your stolen bike online. It’s a long story, but in order to get it ‘in the system’ — where officers are going to have access to your stolen bike’s data — you need to have an officer come write a report on your stolen bike, if you can. This won’t always happen - but this is especially necessary if your bike was taken in a robbery, home or business break-in, or smash-and-grab. (Online reports are basically to satisfy insurance claims, but do NOT get officers the serial and bike info they need.)

An online report is better than no report at all, but if you file online be sure to do BOTH of these next two steps:

  1. Register your stolen bike with safebikes.org and stolen.bikeindex.org — @plattyjo also runs an excellent Google Group for Bay Area stolen bikes.
  2. Tell everyone you know about your stolen bike and encourage them to spread the word on social media. The more eyeballs you have looking for your bike, the better.

Now: about keeping an eye out for your stolen bike

First: Again, tell everybody you know about your stolen bike — in person, on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. The more, the better. You want many eyes out there looking for your stolen bike as you can get, and you can use our local Twitter feeds to do so:

Oakland: @stolenbikesoak

SF: @stolenbikessfo

Berkeley: @stolenbikesbrk

San Jose: @stolenbikessj

Next: Keep an eye out for your stolen bike on Craigslist— you can use ifttt.com to set up Craigslist alerts for specific Craigslist searches, but it is better to manually check bike listings because thieves purposefully obfuscate bike names, brands, etc. to avoid detection.

If you actually find your bike on Craigslist, get in touch with the police you filed your report with — because Craigslist isn’t going to help you. Ever. Follow @stolenbikessfo — which tracks stolen bikes, dodgy Craigslist ads, and bike thieves in the Bay Area — for more information. Start a new email account and pretend to be interested in buying the bike, so you can gather email, phone, and other info on the seller.

2016: As of 2016 your bike is about ten times more likely to pop up on OfferUpNow.com then it is on Craigslist. Not even kidding, we’ve seen thieves and fences move there en masse. So: monitor OfferUpNow.com and its various knockoffs — 5milesapp.com, LetGo.com, neerbuy.com, etc.

Next: stolen bikes often show up at local flea markets — Laney Flea Market is notorious for being a huge market for stolen bikes. Consider taking a couple of trips to your local flea markets and hunting for your stolen bike. Many awesome anti bike-theft folks go to local flea markets, take photos of suspect bikes, and post them to the Bicycles At Bay Area Flea Markets Flickr group — so start hunting there first.

Is there video footage of your theft? If you can get video of your bike being stolen, PLEASE either upload it to youtube and send me the link or email it to me (bryan@bikeindex.org) so I can get it on youtube for you.

Lastly — please please please: Take a couple of minutes to register your next bike — BEFORE it gets stolen- with BikeIndex.org — a phenomenal, free place to register your bike run by people with a fantastic registry and great tools coming out to help combat bike theft.

Questions? @stolenbikessfo

Edits 2016: the once fantastic @sfpdbiketheft twitter is no longer active (that officer moved onto another position) so I’ve removed all references to it in this post.

Some final notes: I’ve been working on the bike theft problem since the mid-90's, basically trying to interconnect bike theft victims with people most likely to recover stolen bikes — i.e. shops, other bikers, schools, police departments, etc. I’ve found that by giving everybody access to the data they need, this model works - you wouldn’t believe some of our recoveries! The more people know about BikeIndex, though, the better it works. I’d hugely appreciate a link, a retweet, or simply you letting a local bike shop know about stolen.bikeindex.org.