Illustration by Christine Hipp
Illustration by Christine Hipp

Local bike advocate Steve Schlicht recently created a petition and website to combat the sale of stolen bikes in Santa Cruz. He did this due to a large volume of feedback from the Facebook group “Take Back Santa Cruz,” a group whose mission is to “to make the streets of Santa Cruz safe and free from drugs, gangs and abusive behavior.”

The petition, which currently has 56 signatures, demands Goodwill Industries of Santa Cruz, which runs the weekly Santa Cruz Flea Market on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, change their policies to stop the sale of bikes and bike parts at the market.

The petition states, “I along with many others believe that the Santa Cruz Flea Market is creating a free market for the sale of stolen bikes and bike parts in Santa Cruz County. I am asking that [Goodwill Industries] modify or amend [their] exhibitor policies to prohibit the sale or display of bikes or bike parts at the Santa Cruz Flea Market.”

Schlicht criticizes Goodwill’s policies, which he said are enabling and loose.

“It’s basically a black market for stolen bikes,” Schlicht said.

In response to the petition, Goodwill Industries made it clear that they are against the sale of stolen goods and encourage efforts to prevent stolen items from being sold.

“We have no evidence that there have been any stolen bikes on the premises, and the basic position we are taking is that we endorse any effort to prevent stolen bicycles,” said Goodwill public relations director Lloyd Graff.

Goodwill Industries updated their vendor permit card prior to Schlicht’s petition, which now states, “Police and investigatory agencies will be invited to investigate any suspicious activity.”

Detective David Perry of the Santa Cruz Police Department (SCPD) said that SCPD works in conjunction with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff to do occasional sweeps of the flea market. During these searches they have not found evidence of stolen property.

“A good number of our vendors are regulars and they have proper state licenses,” Graff said, “and so they have to show [resale permits] when they purchase their vendors permit.”

Working toward the recovery of stolen bikes, Schlicht also launched a website on Jan. 1, offering free bike registration for people living in Santa Cruz. The site, www.santacruzbikebase.com, aims to quicken the recovery of lost bikes and also attach validation to the owners of the bikes.  It also allows visitors to sign Schlight’s petition.

“Currently one of the problems is the inability to register online,” Schlicht said. “The process only takes about 30 seconds and it’s available to everyone. My goal is to register as many people as possible and recover any stolen bikes.”

The city of Santa Cruz also offers registration through the financial department and the fire department.

Although Goodwill Industries circulated cards among vendors that read, “If you are selling stolen property, counterfeit recordings or otherwise infringing items, we don’t want you here!” Schlicht thinks these policies and the managers at the flea market are not aggressive enough toward finding out whether or not any goods are stolen.

“If you leave it up to the people to police themselves, it’s basically allowing them to sell stolen parts,” Schlicht said.

So far, the petition has garnered 57 signatures since its release on Jan. 2, as of Jan. 16.

For students, the Office of Physical Education, Recreation and Sports, and Transportation and Parking Services at UC Santa Cruz also provide free bike licenses and renewals to ensure the safety and ownership of bicycles.

“You’ve got to have your registration. You have to have stickers on your bikes,” said UCSC bike co-op core member Emily Bonnin. “You have to have your forms in the right place just in case it gets stolen.”

Schlicht’s website also acts as a network for the students at UCSC and the community.

“It’s a very proactive way to protect your bike and you validate that it’s your bike,” Schlicht said. “Given that fact that there are so many students, it’s just another tool to take back the power.”