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Tel Aviv police are employing new tacks, including surprise visits to used bike shops and raids on places where stolen bikes are sold, to stem the rising tide of bicycle theft in the city.

Police are also marking every bicycle in the city in the hopes of tracking it to fight the bike theft trend that is also endemic to other cities around the country as well.

Since Shahar Ayalon became Tel Aviv District police commander three months ago the problem of bicycle thefts has climbed onto the force's agenda. Last week senior officers, officials from Tel Aviv and Holon, bicycle importers and representatives of bicycling advocacy organizations met at the police district headquarters.

"It doesn't matter to us whether the bike stolen from a resident is worth NIS 200 or 20,000, for that person it is equally precious and we are aware of the importance of the issue to city residents," Police spokesman Avi Tzabari said yesterday. Tzabari himself rides a high-end mountain bike.

"We left the meeting feeling satisfied," the head of the Israel Bicycle Association, Yotam Avizohar, said. "We got almost everything we wanted."

He said the various organizations represented at the meeting accepted varied tasks as part of the battle against bike theft.

"The police asked the municipality for help in locating warehouses where the police could place the bikes and people could come, identify their own and and get it back. The city also took it upon itself to create more safe parking places for bicycles," Avizohar said.

Avizohar said the city impressed upon the police the need for an antitheft campaign, "among other things, in light of the city's plan to launch a bike rental program next year."

He also noted that his organization asked the police to step up its enforcement of the Ports Authority and the Israel Postal Company as the "export" of bicycles from Israel is a more common than expected occurance.

"We hope this initiative will spread to other parts of the country that are also experiencing the problem of bicycle thefts," Avizohar said.