To help reunite stolen bicycles with their rightful owners, Sea Isle City police are starting a voluntary program this weekend to register bicycles.

Police received reports of 149 bicycles stolen in 2009. All but nine thefts occurred between June and August, according to police statistics.

City police said 55 recovered bicycles were still unclaimed by the end of the year.

"This is to try to get a handle on all the bike thefts and having all these bicycles left over," police spokesman Sgt. Kirk Rohrer said. "If they're registered, it'll be easier to match them back up with people."

Starting Saturday, Sgt. Tom McQuillen and a team will be taking bike registrations on the Promenade off John F. Kennedy Boulevard during the city's popular Skimmer Weekend. Registrants need their bicycles with them and must provide contact information.

Police will also provide information on proper helmet fitting.

Bicycle thefts are prominently crimes of opportunity, often used for a quick ride before being abandoned, according to police.

Bicycle thefts remain a concern in shore towns where bicycles are a preferred mode of transportation. Such thefts can also inflate crime rates in towns.

Another concern is reuniting bicycles with their owners. Many towns hold auctions each year on the unclaimed bicycles.

This year, neighboring Avalon also started a voluntary bicycle registration program and other measures to help curb thefts and reunite bicycles with their owners.

Avalon reported 162 bicycle thefts in 2009; Ocean City reported 229 thefts, according to statistics from both police departments.

Across the state, 8,387 bicycles were stolen in 2008, according to the State Police Uniform Crime report, which valued the bicycles at nearly $2.2 million.

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