If you happened to be around Dongfeng Square (东风广场) or other high-traffic areas in the city yesterday, you may have noticed a flurry of friendly police activity. Officers were out in force attempting to convince ebike owners to register their vehicles and have an anti-theft global positioning tracker installed for the nominal fee of 150 yuan.
The effort was part of a new citywide program called the Kunming Internet Motorized Two-Wheeled Vehicle Intelligent Anti-Theft Management System (昆明市物联网二轮电动自行车智能防盗管理系统正式启动). Using "cloud computing and big data technology", the network allows police to track any registered vehicle in realtime within the city limits and beyond. The initiative was instituted as both a large-scale crime deterrent, as well as a new means for law enforcement personnel to track down stolen ebikes and return them to their rightful owners.
Kunming has an estimated two million motorized bikes and, according to a press release, the anti-theft effort is a response to a marked increase in ebike-related crime. While the city has long maintained a reputation as a hotbed for bicycle and ebike theft, reports of larceny and violent incidents are on the rise.
While registration in the new program is not mandatory, law enforcement officials highly recommend enrollment. Those who sign up must pay 150 yuan, which covers administrative costs as well as the purchase and installation of a GPS tracking device. This can be accomplished at many local Public Security Bureau offices — a short list in Chinese is available here online. Foreigners can use passports as a form of identification, while Chinese are required to provide their national ID cards.
We spoke with O'Reilly's Irish Pub numbers man and venture capitalist Teddy Bowers who went through the process in Dongfeng Square on February 22. He explained the police were extremely cordial and even had dogs for people to play with while they waited. Bowers' experience lasted about 50 minutes, largely because the officers in charge of filing registrations were overwhelmed with requests. At the end of the process his diandongche was equipped with a new GPS device and a shiny green license plate.
Any person who is signed up for the program who has their ebike stolen needs to report the theft as normal to the local police. If the authorities cannot recover the vehicle within 60 days, the victim will receive cash compensation. The 'refund' amounts to 1,500 yuan if the ebike was demonstrably bought within the past year, while owners of older bikes up to three years-old receive 600 yuan.
There are no current statistics available regarding how many have signed up for the new program. However, several local newspapers have recently run glowing reports of stolen ebikes recovered and returned to their rightful owners in only a matter of hours.
Top and bottom images: Liu Zhenyuan
Man image: Jia Fan