When Arlington County Police Lt. Heather Hurlock returned from a vacation last week, she found more than 70 messages from residents asking to register their bicycles.
This is the high demand that Hurlock — a crime prevention specialist with the county and the head of the bicycle theft program — said she’s seen since she launched the county’s bicycle registration program 15 years ago. ACPD registers an average 1,000 bikes every year, Hurlock told ARLnow Tuesday morning.
Hurlock said she gets satisfaction in returning stolen bikes to their owners, who sometimes have been missing the cycles for years.
“One time, I received a call from Alexandria about a recovered, stolen bike with an Arlington decal on it,” she said Tuesday morning. “I called the owner it was registered under and he had it stolen on his second day of eighth grade. The day I called him was his last day of college.”
Calls about the free registrations come from around the globe.
“At this point, I have bikes registered [from] all over the world,” Hurlock said. “I get calls from very strange places asking about their decal number after their bike was stolen.”
Hurlock is also in charge of recovering abandoned bikes. Every week, she patrols the county following up on tips about bicycles left unattended or locked to parking meters and lampposts for more than five days. After Hurlock leaves a note and waits two days, she impounds the bikes. After 60 days in county custody, the cycles are donated to Bikes for the World, an Arlington-based charity that gives repaired, used bicycles to needy people as close as Rockville and as far as Namibia and the Philippines.
If a cyclist can’t read the serial number on the bike to register it, Hurlock will engrave a new number.
To prevent theft, the police lieutenant recommended securing bikes using a sturdy U-lock and storing them in protected places.
Bike thefts from residential areas are up in Arlington County because residents leave their garage doors open with their bikes inside, Hurlock said. Overall bike thefts were down significantly in the first half of 2014, ACPD announced in May.