MONTREAL -- Montreal police are going high-tech and grassroots to clamp down on bike thefts, partnering with Garage 529, a continent-wide database for cyclists to register and report stolen bikes.

“It’s something we’ve been waiting for quite a while in Montreal. We’ve been hoping for that to happen for the past two years,” said Magali Bebronne of Velo Quebec.

“We do think it’s going to make a huge difference in deterring bike thieves from stealing your favourite bike—because it’s registered and they know they’ll have a hard time selling it to someone else.”

Bikes have become a hot commodity in the pandemic, as a safe and socially distanced way to travel.

Despite the uptick in sales and ridership, bicycle thefts were actually down last year, according to figures from Montreal police.

Around 1,700 bikes were reported stolen in 2020, versus roughly 2,100 in an average year for the past decade.

Garage 529 "will not only allow us to gain valuable information for our investigations, but it will also help us return stolen bikes to their rightful owners when we find them,” said Montreal police commander Steve Girard, who is in charge of bicycle theft investigations for the police force.

“However, it is still very important to report to the police in the event of theft, even if a report has already been made on Garage 529. The police need a report in order to make an arrest,” he added.

Brebonne says because the database crosses the continent, the app allows a stolen bicycle to potentially be recovered even if someone is trying to unload it in another city—so long as the bike shop or seller checks the serial numbers for reported thefts.

“We need as many people as possible to adopt the system: it’s just like vaccinations: the more people that are on there the more effective it’s going to be” ” she told CTV Montreal.

“It really needs to become this thing, where you know and you can expect a bike is registered and if you’re going to try and steal it, you aren’t going to get away with it.”