It’s been just a month and a half since the City of Boston, teamed up with the Boston PD and Stolen Bikes Boston to launch a social media strategy to recover stolen bikes. Just last week, the first bike was recovered through the plan. Postings on Facebook lead to the recovery of the bike in Arlington. Another bike that was stolen from South Station has been reported as being sighted in Roxbury.
The director of this innovative program, Nicole Freedman, says the key is to alert as many people as feasible as soon after the bike is reported stolen as possible. People can choose from three ways to hear about a stolen bike, through Facebook, Twitter or an email list. The notices go out after someone reports their bike as stolen at the website which is stolenbikesboston.com.
Down the road, Freedman hopes to be able to hook up with police authorities, such as those at universities and hospitals to recover bikes that are stolen and subsequently dumped and hopefully match them up with their owners. “Believe it or not” says Freedman, “there’s a significant secondary market for higher end bikes that quickly get shipped out of the area for resale elsewhere, often out of the country”. Tracking down those bikes will be challenging.
Additional social media efforts could include a proprietary iPhone application, “It’s something we’re looking at to see if it will help increase amount of bikes that can be returned. That’s our priority. It’s something we may do if we decide it’ll help in that effort.”
Social media is about creating conversations. The Boston Bike program is doing just that. But for the program to achieve real success will require an engaged public to participate by reading at least one of the three informational feeds and then being on the lookout. The alerts go to any citizen who signs up as well as police, bicycle repair shops and others in the cycling community.
So far, the Boston Bikes program has 173 registered users and 66 stolen bikes. To date, 380 people are Facebook fans, there are about 250 followers on Twitter and 50 who have asked for alerts through email. Freedman acknowledges that they’re still pedaling uphill and will continue to until they reach a critical mass of followers. She says, “one thing I know is that there are a lot of people that are coming very regularly to follow the stolen bikes program. It seems to be becoming viral.” Followings are built slowly, once they pass the crest of the hill, it’s certain to pick up steam.