Costa Mesa Police Department joins online bike registry Project 529, urges residents to sign up
To locate stolen or missing bicycles and return them to their rightful owners, the Costa Mesa Police Department has partnered with Project 529 — an online registry already used in multiple Orange County jurisdictions — and is encouraging people to sign up.
Accessible online and through a smartphone app called “529 Garage,” the portal allows people to submit serial numbers, enter descriptions and even upload photos into a database that others can view.
If a bike is found or recovered, police officers and citizens can compare its information to what’s been submitted online, says CMPD spokeswoman Roxi Fyad. However, residents must still file a police report to share those details across agencies.
“There is a network where you can tell others around you and issue a missing bike alert if your bike has been stolen,” Fyad said of the database. “Not only do you have a network of police departments and registered bikes, you have a way to utilize that network on your own.”
CMPD officers last Saturday introduced Project 529 to the public during a bike safety event in conjunction with the local nonprofit Save Our Youth, where they encouraged people to download the “529 Garage” app and register their bikes. The department is also offering free shields with individualized numbers that can also be entered into the database.
The program replaces an old ordinance that required all bicycles be registered through the police department and levied punishments for those in possession of unregistered bikes. That law was abolished last month under a statewide mandate that claimed such ordinances were potentially ineffective and disproportionately enforced.
Fyad said Tuesday the department had been considering joining Project 529 long before the rule change and was training employees in various divisions before announcing the program to the public last week.
While it’s still too soon to view how many local residents have registered, online figures indicate that, as of Thursday, 29,591 bikes in the surrounding region have been added to the database.
Costa Mesa isn’t the only jurisdiction to have signed up for the registry. The cities of Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Irvine, among others, are already using the platform to help recover lost or stolen bikes in their communities.
Huntington Beach has used the service for the past four years and urges citizens to download the 529 Garage app at public events and through social media posts, according to police spokeswoman Jessica Cuchilla.
A total of 32,141 bikes had been registered in the region. Officers hope the new online portal will help reverse a skyrocketing trend of bicycle thefts in the city, which saw the overall value of stolen bikes climb from $348,018 in 2018 to $846,967 last year.
“This is the most effective tool we have to return any bikes we may have coming into our impound lot,” Cuchilla said Thursday. “It’s very important for people to know their bikes’ serial numbers and file a report. If they haven’t been reported to us, there’s no way for us to know if a bike was stolen or file charges if we find someone with a stolen bike.”
In Newport Beach, officers in the field have used the Project 529 database since early 2020 to quickly identify whether a bike is stolen or not. Crime prevention specialist Sara Verschueren estimated about 300 bikes have so far been registered citywide.
“Because the system is only as good as the data inputted, we are constantly promoting this resource to our residents,” she said. “Since [Project 529] is free and it takes about five minutes to complete a profile, it’s an easy way for residents to be proactive about helping law enforcement recover more lost and stolen bikes.”
Darcy Jones, an administrator who oversees Irvine Police Department’s crime prevention unit, agrees. A total of 1,433 Irvine bicycle owners have signed up since the city joined the online registry in late 2020, after seeing an uptick in thefts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The city of Irvine used to have a municipal code that required you to register your bike. [But the pandemic], we thought, was a good time for us to sit back and think of some new ways, Jones said Thursday of the impetus for joining Project 529.
“It was designed for ease of use by the public, but it also helps our patrol officers,” she continued. “It helps us hold people accountable and helps us return bikes to people, so if it’s lost or stolen, we can get bikes back to people sooner.”
Fyad hopes residents will download the 529 Garage app or visit project529.com to start creating a hyperlocal database of bicycles in Costa Mesa, where last year, 154 theft reports were made but only 24 bikes were recovered.
“This is a better way to assist our community in recovering stolen and lost bikes,” she said.
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