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  #1  
Old 10-05-2006, 10:33 AM
JoeW JoeW is offline
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Angry Recovering stolen bikes

So I've had some recent experiences that have got me thinking...
First I see a guy on the MAX yellow line with a brand new Giant MTB, he looks like he can't afford it, he won't put it on the bike hook despite the fact that there's no one using it, won't make eye contact...you see where I'm going? THEN he sees a trimet security guy on the platform, mind you the security guy does NOT get on, but this guy is so freaked out that he shoves past as the doors are closing, rides in front of traffic on interstate, and procceeds the wrong way up the bike lane checking over his shoulder. YEAH. pretty sure that's not his bike.
Second I see a guy at the 82nd max platform pushing a black bike. may have been a trek. It's got aero bars on it, clip pedals...and the guy is wearing dickies, not wearing clip shoes, is a little out of shape to be riding a bike with AERO bars...you know how those hurt your back if you're not in great shape? Then I see him at safeway with my wife...we ask him where he got his bike, "my dad built it for me", do the aero's hurt at all, "no, not really", how is it riding the clips without the shoes, "what are clips?". Again, probably not his bike.
I'm sure some of you have had similar instances. What would you do if you're pretty sure a bike is stolen. Yell "bike thief!!!" really loud? Try to stop them from going somewhere? Call the police, knowing the thief will be gone when the get there? I just hate to see bike thieves get away with this s***. I've had a bike stolen (hasn't everyone?) and want to help others get their bikes back. what do you think?
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  #2  
Old 10-05-2006, 02:10 PM
Rixtir Rixtir is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeW View Post
So I've had some recent experiences that have got me thinking...
First I see a guy on the MAX yellow line with a brand new Giant MTB, he looks like he can't afford it, he won't put it on the bike hook despite the fact that there's no one using it, won't make eye contact...you see where I'm going? THEN he sees a trimet security guy on the platform, mind you the security guy does NOT get on, but this guy is so freaked out that he shoves past as the doors are closing, rides in front of traffic on interstate, and procceeds the wrong way up the bike lane checking over his shoulder. YEAH. pretty sure that's not his bike.

<snip>

what do you think?
It could be a bike thief. It could also be a guy who didn't pay the fare.

The second guy sounds like he was on a bike that wasn't his.
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  #3  
Old 10-05-2006, 03:51 PM
dan dan is offline
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i think if that scenario happened to me, and the guy asked "what are clips?", i'd probably try to take the bike. maybe.
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  #4  
Old 10-05-2006, 09:24 PM
JoeW JoeW is offline
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How though? That's what I'm wondering...how does one go about taking a bike from someone? by force? By telling them you know it's stolen and hoping they get freaked out?
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  #5  
Old 10-05-2006, 11:17 PM
PoPo PoPo is offline
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Default tread carefully

Trying to think of a way to encourage such thoughful observations and citizenship while still keeping everyone safe.

Hard to do here, though.

As Rixtir noted, there could be reasons other than the bike being stolen that might cause a person to act suspiciously. And imagine an innocent person's reaction if accused by a total stranger of stealing a bicycle. Probably be pretty angry.

Next imagine a thief's reaction if accused of stealing a bicycle. He or she might panic and run off, leaving the bike. The thief might also be confrontational or threatening or brandish a weapon.

In both cases I think you would be putting yourself in danger, and while we should certainly be looking out for each other and each others' bicycles, at the end of the day it isn't worth risking life or limb for a bicycle that can be replaced. Or for a car or a wallet or any of our other "possessions."

And in both cases, believe it or not, if you use force to take the bicycle you might yourself be commiting the crime of robbery, which is a pretty serious felony.

If you are really convinced that a person has a stolen bike, how about carefully remembering the description of the bike and the person who had it and checking this website for descriptions of recently stolen bikes. You could then contact the person who posted the bike as being stolen and tell them information on where you saw the bike and the person who had it. The bike theft victim can then provide that suspect information to the police, augmenting the stolen bike report they already made after discovering their bike missing. (A report that included the bike's serial number that the victim had wisely recorded someplace safe soon after purchasing the bicycle, as well as a digital picture that the owner had wisely taken of the bicycle!)

I'll let you know if I can think of anything else.
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  #6  
Old 10-06-2006, 06:25 AM
SEA_poseur_n_PDX SEA_poseur_n_PDX is offline
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Default camera phones...

if you have a camera in your mobile phone (if you have a mobile) take a picture. if the person with the bike gets confrontational about you taking a picture just say you like the bike, and wanted a picture of it. I would guess that a picture of the bike, and the person who is in posession of the bike, might be valuable later to both the former owner and the police.
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  #7  
Old 10-06-2006, 07:59 AM
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Attornatus_Oregonensis Attornatus_Oregonensis is offline
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Default Gps!!!!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeW View Post
....What would you do if you're pretty sure a bike is stolen. Yell "bike thief!!!" really loud? Try to stop them from going somewhere? Call the police, knowing the thief will be gone when the get there? I just hate to see bike thieves get away with this s***....
Man, this is a tough situation. I share your frustration.

How you approach such a situation must be informed by the inherent risk. As has been pointed out, there is a pretty good chance that someone who has stolen a bike will become violent when confronted about it, especially if no one else is around. The simple fact is that any confrontation is dangerous.

I don't think the 'get a good description' or the 'take a picture' approach is very good (though certainly better than nothing), because, as you point out, the thief will be gone by the time you get the info to the police or the owner. Now they know what the bike and the thief looks like, but they're still pretty much looking for a needle in a haystack.

If you're OK with the risks of confrontation, you might politely say, "My bike was recently stolen and I think this one might be it. Mind if I check the serial number?" Then you will know for sure whether you're right.

Also, most people don't realize that private citizens have the power of arrest. You can get sued if you use too much force or wrongly arrest someone, so you can add that to the risk of being attacked. But you don't just have to wait for the cops. Again, you have to be comfortable with the risk in the particular situation. And you will also have to wait for the cops to show up.

For example, I would not have been certain enough to act in the 'Max' situation, but I would have been certain enough to act in the 'what are clips?' situation.

Whatever you do, it will take a lot of time and effort. And my opinion is that the cost-benefit ratio of confrontation is not good. Generally, I would not do it.

I hate to say it, but I think your/our collective effort is best spent on dealing with cyclists/bike owners. Register your bike, keep it locked, etc.

But the best solution is technology. Has anyone heard of LoJack? They're a company that puts tiny GPS units in cars. When they're stolen, you call LoJack and they tell you where your car is. Why can't we do this for bikes? Just put a little unit in one of the tubes. No one will know its there. Probably it's too expensive, but there have to be lots of yuppies willing to pay for this and it will get cheaper. Anyone want to write a business plan so we can find some investors for this venture?
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  #8  
Old 10-06-2006, 08:24 AM
Rixtir Rixtir is offline
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Originally Posted by Attornatus_Oregonensis View Post
But the best solution is technology. Has anyone heard of LoJack? They're a company that puts tiny GPS units in cars. When they're stolen, you call LoJack and they tell you where your car is. Why can't we do this for bikes? Just put a little unit in one of the tubes. No one will know its there.
There's something called "cultural hiding places" that would ultimately defeat this. A "cultural hiding place" is typically a place in your home where you hide your valuable items. For example, many people hide valuables in their freezers. The problem with this is that because we're all living in the same culture, we-- including thieves-- all know about these cultural hiding places.

Now let's apply that concept to bicycles. Some people suggest hiding an identifying number in the seat tube. You've suggested hiding a LoJack in one of the tubes. If either of these methods were to become common practice, the thieves would figure out that they need to check the tubing for things like identifying numbers and LoJacks. My theory is that most stolen bikes get parted out anyway, so looking for LoJacks in the tubing would be part of the routine, eventually.

The one benefit I can see is that the LoJack can alert you to the bike's location before the thief has a chance to strip the bike down, which would mean the theft victim would probably have a window of at least a few hours before the theft ring could check for a LoJack. Or maybe they'd just adjust their methods and strip bikes down immediately. Dunno.
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  #9  
Old 10-06-2006, 08:51 AM
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Attornatus_Oregonensis Attornatus_Oregonensis is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rixtir View Post
There's something called "cultural hiding places" that would ultimately defeat this. A "cultural hiding place" is typically a place in your home where you hide your valuable items. For example, many people hide valuables in their freezers. The problem with this is that because we're all living in the same culture, we-- including thieves-- all know about these cultural hiding places.

Now let's apply that concept to bicycles. Some people suggest hiding an identifying number in the seat tube. You've suggested hiding a LoJack in one of the tubes. If either of these methods were to become common practice, the thieves would figure out that they need to check the tubing for things like identifying numbers and LoJacks. My theory is that most stolen bikes get parted out anyway, so looking for LoJacks in the tubing would be part of the routine, eventually.

The one benefit I can see is that the LoJack can alert you to the bike's location before the thief has a chance to strip the bike down, which would mean the theft victim would probably have a window of at least a few hours before the theft ring could check for a LoJack. Or maybe they'd just adjust their methods and strip bikes down immediately. Dunno.
Did you just suggest that thieves would start hiding bikes in freezers?!?! I think I know what you keep in your freezer, rixter! And I think you need to smoke some more. Just kidding.

Three things: (1) There would be a lag time before thieves figured out that bikes now have LoJacks in them. (2) You could easily make the LoJacks very difficult or impossible to remove without specialized tools. (3) You're attributing too much knowledge and wisdom to the average bike thief. Of course a perfectly rational bike thief would strip it immediately to ditch the LoJack. But most people who steal bikes don't strip them; they just ride them around or sell them for meth. People still steal cars with LoJacks. It hasn't completely eliminated the problem, but it has meant that virtually everyone with a LoJack gets their car back. It's not a perfect solution, but it's a great leap forward from what we've got now. Do you have to shit on everything people say here, rixter? Again, JK.
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  #10  
Old 10-06-2006, 11:17 AM
lyleleander lyleleander is offline
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Default same here

i feel everybody's frustration.

really, the only alternative to confronting these guys in the street and holding them there until the cops get there (and risking, what, kidnapping if they happen to be able to prove they own the bike legally? and getting assaulted if they are a thief) is to just focus our efforts on making sure bikes are locked properly (even if they're in your locked garage, car, house, etc) on top of being adamant about recording serial numbers and taking pictures and saving receipts.

maybe something else that could be done would be for someone to organize a lobbying effort focused either on the police bureau or city hall, in order to get officers to make it their policy to stop people who obviously don't fit on the bikes they're riding, record their identity and bike details and question how they got it. it's clearly a touchy subject, because it's basically profiling. but it's the equivalent of stopping someone walking out of an electronics store with raggedy clothes and missing teeth carrying an expensive tv... something is likely up.

so the guys mentioned in this thread, along with the homeless man i've seen in southeast lately with a bag full of empty bottles and a cigar in his mouth riding an expensive mountain bike, likely don't own their bikes and very likely got them either by stealing or trading for drugs or other stolen property.

and with the amount of police cars i see driving around everywhere on a constant basis, they're driving by and seeing these guys all the time too.
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