View Full Version : Thieves, is there anything you can do

12-15-2006, 12:44 PM
I think similar discussions have come up before, but last night I was out in front of the Ash Street Saloon unlocking my bike to head home. A pretty shady looking guy came up to me and said Hey Amigo, I said hi back. Then he looked both ways and pulled a bike light out of his pocket. He asked me if I wanted to buy his bike light for 2 dollars so he could get a beer. I asked him if he wasn't going to need that on his bike next time he rode. He told me that he didn't need it anymore because vandals had bent the rim on his bike so he couldn't ride it anymore. I told him that "someone's" bike was probably missing its light, and that he should probably just go put the light on that bike. He said there were lots of bike with no lights, I gave him a hard stare and said yeah probably one more thanks to you huh, and he just walked off. Obviously he had just stolen the light, probably within a couple of blocks of where we were, is there anything I could have done besides refusing to buy the light?


12-15-2006, 01:10 PM
...is there anything I could have done besides refusing to buy the light?


No, but thanks for not buying it. Someone took my light last week, the bastards. It's getting to the point where you can't leave anything on your bike anymore.

12-17-2006, 02:29 PM
Actually, the answer is: Yes, there is something else you could have done. You could have arrested him. Many people don't seem to be aware of this, but everyone has the power of arrest. See ORS 133.220: “An arrest may be effected by: (1) a peace officer under a warrant; (2) a peace officer without a warrant; (3) a private person; or (4) a federal officer.” I've always thought of this as one of the quintessential aspects of a democracy; each private individual bears some responsibility, and is granted some legal authority, to help enforce the laws that We together create.

The major legal difference between an arrest by a private person and a peace officer is that the latter is immunized from civil suit by the arrested person for the tort of "false arrest" or "false imprisonment." Generally, this is not too big of a deal because the person arrested must bring a civil suit against the private person -- how many guys who go around stealing bike lights are going to sue you?

The major legal risk is that to arrest someone some amount of physical force is generally required. Do you think the bike light thief would have remained standing there if you had said, "Stay here while I call the police"? If you use more force than is necessary to complete the arrest, you can be held liable for that (as can peace officers). Thus, arresting someone as a private citizen carries some risk and is not something I would necessarily recommend.

Nevertheless, We the People do have the power to do something in this situation. Obviously, a good measure of discretion must be used in exercising this power, but -- speaking personally -- in the right situation I would use it.

Here's more, from the Oregon State Bar Association's Deskbook chapter by Daniel S. Margolin:

"A private person may arrest another for any crime committed in his or her presence if he or she has probable cause to believe the arrested person committed the crime. ORS 133.225(1); State v. Chaput, 43 Or App 831, 834, 604 P2d 435 (1979); O’Brien v. Eugene Chemical, 63 Or App 284, 286, 664 P2d 1106 (1983). After the arrest, the private person must take the arrested person before a magistrate or deliver the arrested person to a peace officer without unnecessary delay. ORS 133.225(1). The amount of physical force the private person may use in making the arrest is set forth in ORS 161.255. ORS 133.225(2). See Hatfield v. Gracen, 279 Or 303, 567 P2d 546 (1977) (when defendant, owner of small, late- night grocery store, shot toward person whom he believed had just robbed store, evidence was sufficient for jury to find defendant not liable; defendant was privileged to use physical force in defending or recapturing his property or in making arrest as long as degree of force employed was reasonable).

A person who instigates, directs, or requests a peace officer to make an arrest that turns out to be illegal will be liable in the same manner as if he or she had made the arrest. Pearson v. Galvin, 253 Or 331, 335, 454 P2d 638 (1969); Knight v. Baker, 117 Or 492, 497, 244 P 543 (1926). The person is not liable, however, if he or she merely lays the facts before an officer and the latter makes the arrest on the basis of his or her own judgment and discretion. Delp v. Zapp’s Stores, 238 Or 538, 547–548, 395 P2d 137 (1964) (in action by customer against storekeeper and private detective, defendants were not liable because they did not expressly or impliedly direct officer’s actions, and officer acted on his own judgment and discretion).

If an arrest made by an officer is legal, the person who instigated it cannot be held liable, even if that person’s conduct would have been unlawful had he or she made the arrest. See Bowles v. Creason, 159 Or 129, 160, 78 P2d 324 (1938). Private parties who procure legal process for an arrest are not accountable for any unlawful manner of executing it by the peace officer. Nemitz v. Conrad, 22 Or 164, 29 P 548 (1892).

Instigation of a false arrest “consists of words or acts which direct, request, invite or encourage the false imprisonment itself. In the case of an arrest, it is the equivalent, in words or conduct, of ‘Officer, arrest that man!’” Haley v. Herbert, 125 Or App 144, 147, 865 P2d 389 (1993) (quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts §45A comment c (1965))."

01-08-2007, 03:55 PM
i reacted pretty similarly when some guy near psu offered me his freshly-stolen light. "where did you get that?" i asked him, like he was an idiot two-year-old who didn't know what he was doing.

it was a long time ago, so i don't remember his b.s. answer, but he'd totally stolen it.

i don't plan on citizen-arresting any tweekers any time soon, but i think shaming them a little and of course refusing to buy it is a good start. i wonder how many angry cyclists they usually have to deal with to earn that two bucks.

12-27-2007, 11:35 PM
Too late for the person who's light was stolen...

My suggestion is to personalize your gear...
i.e. My NiteRider TriNewt, and MiNewt X2's have an added blue (originally was green) piece of Fluorescent Rod that allows me to know if my light is on or flashing (useful when using it as a daytime safety light).

I also scratch my name and other info on the battery... (#1, was coded X2 MK I, the 2nd was MK II, and a third would be MK III).

NiteRider also provided a registration page online, so if my lights are ever lost or stolen and recovered by them, I'll get it back. (I remove my lights and batteries when I'm parked in an unsecured area).

Making them distinctly yours, reduces their value to theives.

(BTW, I routinely carry a digital camera, and a cell phone w/a camera... take a pic of the perp (from a safe distance if you can), call the cops to help you make your arrest.)

You can also program your cell w/the Metro Area's Non-Emergency Dispatch's number: (503) 629-0111

Rubberside Down

Simple Nature
12-28-2007, 12:14 PM
So if you notify a prep that he is being arrested by you as a citizen... and he/she runs... does that constitute evading arrest and thereby possibly incur yet another charge?

12-28-2007, 01:59 PM
I doubt calling the police in a situation like that is going to do any good at all. Unless there is someone within earshot screaming "Help! Help! My light just got stolen!!" the police won't have anything to go on. All the guy has to say is that the light is his, or he found it on the side of the street, or whatever. I've lost a light because it vibrated or shook off as I was riding. Someone could've just found it. The cops don't have the time, resources, or inclination to go on a bike by bike search looking for someone who just had their light stolen, matches the light in the guy's hands... so good luck with that citizen's arrest thing.

Scratch or engrave some identifying mark on your stuff. Don't leave anything on your bike when you're not with it. Have all of your serial numbers recorded for bigger things, with photos.

Does it help imagining that the thieves live miserable unsatisfying lives? Does it help blaming capitalism for forcing people into thieving existence?

12-28-2007, 09:10 PM
From what I've heard, A.O.'s right about citizens being able to make an arrest, but as the info he provides points out, you'd better have the goods on the suspect before you decide to do that or bother the cops to come and make the arrest for you. Even if you did have some fairly strong reason to support your suspicion, what do you expect the value of the light the guy showed you might have been Bjorn? Unless it was one of those expensive systems, would a charge have amounted to anything more than petty theft?

One thing about the area Bjorn mentions though, is that cops might be quick to respond to a call there. For this kind of thing, I don't know, but suppose if you'd been sitting out there earlier in the evening and the suspected thief showed his goods, and you then quietly had a friend at your table dial for the police. The cops might be nearby, idle, bored, and delighted to see what this character is up to.

It can be very educational to watch what happens when the cops meet up with this kind of person. It may have been someone the cops know well to the area. Even if they couldn't prove he stole the light, by the time they essentially run him through the mill, checking his record, his whereabouts for the night, what else has been going on in the area lately, they might have something on him. It can be a sad thing to see.

I used to hang out in that area quite a bit. Not so much lately. I'd agree with True that some of the regulars around there lead miserable lives. Not that this justifies them ripping people off, but knowing this might have me think twice before setting the cops on one of them for snatching somebody's $20 light that the owner should have been intelligent enough to snap off and put in their pocket or bag for safe keeping.

12-29-2007, 09:11 AM
All the guy has to say is that the light is his, or he found it on the side of the street, or whatever.

I do believe there is a law/regulation reguarding finding objects of value, and what the finder is required to do prior to taking it as their own, but I'm not sure where to find it...

I heard about it when I found a bike abandoned in Beaverton's Fred Meyers, I called the cops, and they had someone come out and collect it. Later I found out that if I had wanted to claim it, I'd have to have put in ads in the local papers for weeks, and other things prior to being able to claim it for myself. It was to large for me, and I didn't have the time or resources to jump thru the hoops to claim it.

Rubberside Down!

Simple Nature
12-29-2007, 10:46 PM
Not to worry K'Tesh... objects collected by the P.D. are eventually auctioned off and the proceeds go to a good cause.

12-30-2007, 11:43 AM
Not to worry K'Tesh... objects collected by the P.D. are eventually auctioned off and the proceeds go to a good cause.

I understand that for unclaimed objects, but I was refering to found objects that you want to keep for yourself, after the required holding period.

Rubberside Down!