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'Flip, Snap, Selfie' Program Combats Growing Bicycle Theft Problem

DENVER (CBS4) – Nearly 3,000 bikes were reported stolen in Denver last year and theft is on the rise again. According to Denver Police, more than 200 bikes were stolen in just the last few weeks.

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DPD has recovered several stolen bikes, but few have been returned to their rightful owners. In addition to securely storing your wheels, DPD is encouraging cyclists to protect their property after it's stolen.

"If there's no serial number, we can't get it back to the rightful owner," said Jeff Martinez, DPD District 1 Commander. Bicycle serial numbers are typically located under the bottom bracket where the two pedal cranks meet.

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According to DPD, 70% of bicycles are not registered with the city. The City of Denver encourages registration to assist in the recovery and return of bicycles in the event of a theft. Cyclists can register their bikes online or digitally document their information with Flip, Snap, Selfie.

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"You flip the bike over, snap a photo the serial number and snap a selfie of yourself with the bicycle," explained Martinez. The cellphone photo allows bicycle owners to have a copy of their serial number and proof of ownership for potential police reports.

The majority of bicycle thefts this year have occurred in downtown Denver, specifically the Union Station neighborhood. DPD says many bike thefts are committed by drug addicts looking to make a quick sale. Police have also seen stolen bikes being shipped to other countries.

"Sometimes there are bike theft rings that are taking the bikes," said Martinez, "Downtown has a huge problem, our district, every district has a problem." Denver Police has even conducted sting operations through online marketplaces, like Craigslist, to catch thieves who are re-selling stolen bicycles.

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According to DPD, criminals aren't targeting expensive bikes anymore, either, as Denver resident Katherine Mitchell found out after her bike was stolen from the rack at her apartment complex.

"I actually bought it because it looked a little bit junky and rusted. I thought that would be enough of a deterrent, but apparently not," said Mitchell. Several other bikes and wheels were stolen from her complex that day as well.

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Mitchell has since purchased another pair of wheels. Since her stolen bike was unregistered, it's possible someone may repurchase the bike if it was recovered by DPD. Unregistered bikes that are recovered by Denver Police are stored at an impound lot.

If they are not claimed within a certain amount of time, DPD will sell those bikes to the public at an auction.

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