BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Biking is a way of life for many.
“Your first job, your trip to the grocery store, your trip to school... you got to get on two wheels,” says Dustin LaFont with Front Yard Bikes.
As more people are opting for the one-seater instead of a car, bike thefts are becoming a bigger issue.
“I can’t tell you the number of customers who come in and say their bikes were stolen,” LaFont said. “They’re just heartbroken because that was their car; that was how they got from A to B.”
LaFont says finding the rightful owner to a bike after it’s lost or stolen was nearly impossible under the Baton Rouge Police Department’s old process because many bikers don’t want to pay the registration fee and even when they did, the registration sticker can easily be removed by a thief. But the department is pushing a new, free system people can find in the palm of their hands.
“We get bikes that come in, sometimes we have issues where we don’t know where it came from, that’s a great way to verify,” LaFont said. He says 529 Garage brings biking to the 21st century.
“If you come out of your house or business and realize your bike is stolen, you can actually hit an alert on the app. It allows everyone with the app to know your bike was just taken,” explained Sgt. Michael Gauthier with BRPD.
It’s an app called 529 Garage. Gauthier says this new program is designed to “recover bikes and return them to their owner rather than an enforcement tool.” He says the mandatory registration recently required was removed in 2018 so people would feel more at ease with the process.
All it takes is a few clicks with your phone and bikes can be registered for quick recovery. Just enter your name, email address, the frame number on the bike, and add pictures. If the bike is lost or stolen, you can enter its last known location.
“You can type in the information. ‘I’m at the corner of third and convention, my bike was just taken 5 minutes ago, 10 minutes ago.’ People can instantly get that information,” Gauthier said.
Anyone with the app will get an alert to be on the lookout for the stolen bike, including BRPD.
“Working the old database, it was really difficult to try and find somebody,” Gauthier said. “With the new system, once we get more bikes in the system and find the bike, we run the frame number of the bike and it instantly gives us an email.”
Once BRPD receives the alert, an official report is created. If the bike is recovered, BRPD will contact the owner through email or by phone.
Before this app, it was a challenge to keep up with the massive bike inventory. Now, with just a click, practically anyone with the app can help return a bike to its owner.
The department is required to keep recovered bikes for 90 days. Gauthier says if the owner doesn’t claim the bike during that time, it’s donated to a non-profit. BRPD says up to 10 to 25 bikes are stolen per month. To help the department get your bike back faster, download the program for free.
The more bikes that are registered, the better the system will work, Gauthier says.