New app helps police return stolen property to owners

by: John Monahan Updated:


BOSTON -- Thefts account for over half of the crimes committed in Massachusetts, and more than 90 percent of stolen items are never recovered.

But police have a new tool to change that.

Lucy Archer and a friend had planned a day of mountain biking, but thieves ruined those plans.

“We were going to go mountain biking that day. I come down and find the shed entirely empty,” Archer said.  

Four bikes were stolen from her backyard shed. Being an avid bicyclist, Archer knew the first place to look for them was online. It didn’t take her and Boston Police long to locate her bikes using an app called Rejjee.

She was able to get the bikes back because she had the serial numbers. The app Rejjee allows you to take a picture and put in your serial number, then upload it and store it.

“We call it a personal digital lock box. Any of your important stuff, serial numbers, bill of sales, any appraisals, any of that kind of stuff,” said Rejjee co-founder Gary O’Neil.

The app is not just for bikes, but for everything from tools to jewelry. There are 13 categories of stolen goods, but they launched in the spring and focused on bikes.

Rejjee is based in Cambridge, which is a bike mecca. The entire metro Boston area is now one of the top 10 bike friendly areas, but all the bikes are magnets for thieves.

“It’s a huge problem. We got killed this summer with bike thefts,” said Somerville police deputy Stephen Carribino.

Police say bikes are an easy way for thieves to make quick cash.

“Often times, when people come to us and they say my bike got stolen, what we’ll say to them is go to Craigslist, go to eBay, see if you can find it on there. Because often times that’s where the criminal goes to sell it,” Carribino said.

Carribino’s department, along with Boston and MBTA police are using Rejjee to reunite owners with stolen items.

"When you file your report, the notice goes into the cloud. It is crowd sourced lost and found. Anybody then can see it,” said Rejjee co-founder Ken Smith.

“Our evidence officer is actively uploading these bikes, and hopefully soon we’ll get a hit,” Carribino said.

Bikes are only the beginning. Their mission is to take $1 billion of stolen goods off the Internet.

The normal return rate of stolen items is just 2 percent. So far, Rejjee easily has that beaten.

“So we’re 7.5 times the national average on the Cambridge model right now,” said Smith.