Constable Rob Brunt has been a proud member of the Vancouver Police Department for over 30 years. It had been a life-long dream of his to join the VPD after receiving a pretend police driver’s licence from a VPD officer during a visit to Stanley Park in 1976 when he was only nine years old.
Fast-forward to 2015: Having been with the VPD for almost 25 years, he was tasked with finding a solution to Vancouver’s growing bike theft problem. After thinking outside the box, he turned to a new technology that had launched just south of the border called Project 529 – an online information-sharing platform and bike registration database system that reunites stolen bikes with their rightful owners and also works to deter would-be thieves before thefts occur.
With funding from the Vancouver Police Foundation, Rob secured and bolstered one of the most impactful partnerships between the VPD and a third-party service provider, resulting in a 40% drop in bike thefts in Vancouver since Project 529 launched in 2015.
At the outset, Rob’s goal was to have 10,000 bikes registered to the program in its first three years of operation. He and his team reached that goal in the first six months. Naturally, Rob couldn’t believe how quickly the program took off across Vancouver, but he says it just demonstrates how frustrated residents were with the high theft rates and how willing they were to be part of the solution.
Prior to launching Project 529 in BC, statistics showed that Vancouver residents were actually changing their transportation habits and turning away from cycling entirely. Fortunately, Rob says, there has been a complete reversal of this trend and more residents are turning to cycling as a preferred mode of transportation.
“Ridership in Vancouver has been steadily on the rise not only because of better bike routes and bike paths, but also because bike theft has been going down so dramatically,” explains Rob.
More recently, another factor has significantly increased the demand for Project 529. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, statistics around cycling and bike ownership has dramatically changed again.
“In Vancouver there has been about a 400% increase in riding and a 300% increase in bike sales over the last year,” says Rob. “We’ve had to adapt to this incredible increase in demand by hosting registration events through the winter for the first time ever.”
Trying to keep up with the demand from cyclists to be part of this program has been one of Rob’s biggest challenges.
With funding provided by the Vancouver Police Foundation we are able to focus on bike registrations and expanding the program. The reason we are so successful is because we have full support of both the Foundation and VPD Chief Adam Palmer. Many cities across North America are trying to implement Project 529 but are falling short due lack of funding. We are so grateful to the Foundation that we don’t have that challenge here.
Rob has also been instrumental in expanding Project 529 across Canada and down the entire west coast of the USA. Dozens of municipalities in North America have relied on his expertise and guidance. He has even travelled as far as Columbia to help launch the program in Bogota.
“Program expansion to other areas of Canada and the US allows stolen bikes from Vancouver to be recovered in other cities,” explains Rob. “Thieves know no boundaries and we’ve recently had success with Vancouver bikes being located in Washington State and Alberta.”
Registering your bike for Project 529 is as easy as downloading the free app or visiting any of Vancouver’s 11 Community Police Centres (CPC). You can also pick up your free Shield decal at any CPC as well.
Having tackled the bike theft issue in Vancouver for over five year’s now, Rob has three important pieces of advice to all bike owners in Vancouver:
- Register your bike through Project 529
- Report bike theft to the police so you have a better chance for recovery
- Buy a good lock and learn how to use it correctly
“The Project 529 online platform technology is very user-friendly,” says Rob. “With funding from the Vancouver Police Foundation, we are proud to be able to offer the technology and the Shield decal for free to all Vancouver residents.”
Having the opportunity to spearhead a program that has had such a significant impact on crime and culture in Vancouver has been a highlight of Rob’s career with the VPD. To register your bike and to learn more, please visit: www.project529.com. You can also keep an eye out on Twitter @project529bc to learn about upcoming bike registration events.