Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bike Thievery Around the Nation

Every weekday morning I get a journalism story ideas email from the Poynter Institute. It's a terrific way to keep up on various stories developing around the country. This morning it had a bit on bicycle thefts:
Bike Thieves Keep Active
As people try to go green and ride their bicycles, bike thieves are having a field day. (Texas Hill Country Daily Times). I am seeing reports of rising bicycle thefts in Washington, D.C., (WJLA, Channel 7 ABC from Falls Church, VA) where thieves are hitting metro stations. Some places like this Michigan town, (Northville, Michigan), Denver (Denver Post) and West Des Moines, Iowa, (KCCI Channel 8 CBS) are installing bike racks to prevent thefts.

It's no wonder bikes are so attractive to thieves. They are easy to steal, they can be worth a lot of money these days and they are easy to sell to places like pawnshops. Police often don't spend much time investigating the crime, so the chances of getting caught are small. This would make for a fairly easy story to personalize in your town.

In Denmark, police have announced they won't spend much time on bike thefts, but will instead focus on more serious crime. An estimated 80,000 bikes are stolen (The Copenhagen Post) in Denmark each year. If you figure there are three months a year when bikes are not frequently used in Denmark, this would mean that more than 10,000 bikes a month — a few thousand or so a week — are stolen.
Not included in the Poynter email but another interesting article is Chasing my stolen bicycle by Justin Jouvenal in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. I like this quote from the article:
"Bikes are one of the four commodities of the street — cash, drugs, sex, and bikes," Veysey told me. "You can virtually exchange one for another."
I've had one bicycle stolen, from my garage, and it was maddening. Funnily enough, I'd be angrier if my Atlantis was stolen than if my pickup was stolen. Bicycle thievery is one place where I can see the advantages of sharia law--cut off their hands!


Anonymous said...

As North American adults start using bicycles for transportation, they will realize that there's more to it than not falling off. The good news is, it's not a foregone conclusion that your bike will be stolen. You just have to learn good locking skills.

Anonymous said...

I live in an area (Bellevue, WA--on the "eastside" of the Seattle area) where bike use is high but bike theft is relatively low. In spite of that, I am not comfortable leaving my bike locked up at a rack for longer than it takes to buy groceries. I don't ride to the movies because I don't trust leaving my bike locked up outside the theater that long. I have both a cable lock and a ulock but since there often are no real bike racks, I have to lock up to suitable trees, fences, or posts and the ulock often doesn't work. So I'm seriously considering a Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit chain lock. Only problem: the 3'3" model weighs nearly 9 pounds and the 5' model weighs nearly 12. That's a commitment to locking my bike.

I'm also going to get some pitlocks from Peter White Cycle to secure front and rear wheels and seatpost.

Matt said...

I've done a set of Pitlocks. I'll be writing about them shortly. I carry the socket on my bicycle keychain along with the Kryptonite key for my short shackle, the OnGuard key for my long shackle lock, and a bottle opener. Initially, I was annoyed that the Pitlock took a 14mm wrench (instead of, say, a 15mm) but once I cut off the skewer so it didn't stick out any more I can use a 5mm allen wrench through the socket's holes to undo it. I haven't had any wheels stolen yet, but on the other hand, I didn't in the prior 30 years either.

Jim Thill said...

Bike thefts follow predictable patterns. One's chances of being a victim are drastically increased by the following:
1. Leaving the garage door open over night or for several days at a time.
2. Leaving the bike locked or unlocked and unattended anywhere in a public place for days, weeks, or months at a time.

Avoiding these pitfalls is more important than having exchanged one's Kryptonite barrel-key lock back during the recall. Having a great lock is a deterrent; there are always easier targets to be found.

I heard recently that Minneapolis is spending a bunch of extra money for police to investigate bike thefts.

Jim Thill said...

BTW, one of the new enforcement measures being considered in Minneapolis is a "bait bike" program.

I have often had sick and demented bait bike fantasies of my own. I have considered leaving a tantalizing bike hastily locked in some high risk location, then waiting for the thief to make his attempt. At that point, I jump out of the bushes and beat him with a length of pipe.

Matt said...

Actually, I thought a good bait bike thing would be to take a bike, park it and lock it with a cheesy lock, and unhook the brake cables. Do this at the top of a big hill, preferably with a busy street at the bottom. Let the hilarity ensue.