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Old 12-30-05, 03:07 PM   #1
Blue Order
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Bike Thieves

Everybody's favorite, right?

I've seen several discussions of how to prevent theft, but none that I recall regarding thieves. Who are these people? How do they prosper? What happens to the bikes they steal?

Who are the thieves? It would seem that they need to have some knowledge of bikes of take the high end rides and leave the beaters behind. And to break the high-end locks, these guys have to be pros. Is it possible that the thieves are avid cyclists, maybe even people who post here?

Do they sell the bikes themselves, or do they have guys who sell for them? Do the bikes get sold locally, or are they shipped somewhere far away from where they were stolen and sold?

I know that stolen vehicles often get shipped to Eastern Europe. Does something similar happen to our bikes? Or do they get sold in the country where they were stolen? Are they sold whole, or are they parted out? Resprayed to hide their identity? Sold on Craigslist? Ebay?

There's one guy who's sold on Ebay-- I actually bought parts from him-- and I suspect, a year after the fact, that he may be selling parted-out stolen bikes. I'm hoping to catch him at it. I could be wrong about him, but I do have my suspicions.

Theories, or better yet, facts, anyone?
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Old 12-30-05, 11:56 PM   #2
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I believe I have some of the answers you were looking for. I found them on the National Bike Registry website. You can register your bike through them (recommended) and get great information on bike theft.
Quote:
The Thieves

How they work

Most bicycles are stolen from places owners assume are safe. Experienced thieves can take even locked bikes in about 10-20 seconds. Bolt cutters will cut most chains and cables, and U-style locks are broken by inserting scissors-style car jack inside the U and cranking.

Who the thieves are

Very little evidence exists about the thieves themselves. Most information comes from journalists and is at best anecdotal. Nevertheless, Centric Media has formulated theories based on these journalists’ articles and interviews with law enforcement officials.

Within the drug trade, stolen bicycles are so common they can almost be used as currency. On the streets, the value of a stolen bicycle is approximately 5-10% of the bicycle’s original retail value, with an inverse relationship between value and percentage worth on the street. According to numerous interviews with industry insiders, the percentage goes up as the value goes down; a bicycle that sells for $200 new will sell for $20 on the street when stolen, and a new $2500 chromealloy machine will sell for as low as $125.

In most U.S. cities, bicycle-theft rings are organized to steal bikes and sell them on the street, at flea markets, and to receivers of stolen goods, i.e. fences.4



The Buyers

Rumors and assumptions are more common than facts in reports on where stolen bicycles are disposed of. Many eventually end up in police property rooms, without being returned to their owners. There is some evidence, however, about what happens to the others.

Export

Reliable sources indicate that substantial numbers of stolen bicycles are exported on barges through the Port of Miami.5 Customs officials have also noted shipments of both bicycles and bicycle parts through New Jersey.6 General rumors abound that many bicycles are taken into Mexico and Southeast Asia.
The remainder of the article is here: http://www.nationalbikeregistry.com/crime.html
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Old 12-31-05, 02:01 AM   #3
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Yes I have a friend who bought a pretty neat Specialized road bike for $200 at a flea market. That bike was stolen for sure, probably in a different city and taken to the Oakland flea market. This is how professionals operate. I couldn't ride a bike like that, but my friend has no issue with it...
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Old 12-31-05, 02:49 AM   #4
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Here in LA they sell the bike to stores downtown that resell them. My bike ended up downtown and sold there. Luckily I saw someone riding it and recovered it.

As you noticed, the frames can be sold as metal scrap and parts sold since theres no serials on the parts.
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Old 12-31-05, 10:05 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by EricDJ
Luckily I saw someone riding it and recovered it.
That's a happy ending. Did you call the cops when you saw your bike, or did you take the rider out yourself? Were they able to trace the bike back to who stole it?
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Old 12-31-05, 10:44 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blue Order
I've seen several discussions of how to prevent theft, but none that I recall regarding thieves. Who are these people? How do they prosper? What happens to the bikes they steal?
I don't know the international aspect of bicycle theft but only those who steal from bike racks.

The tens of thousands of bikes stolen from bike racks are from poor transportation cyclist. These are men and teenagers who have little or no funds and look at bike racks as the solution to their sorry lot in life. In general, they will even steal the rear wheel of a rusted Huffy if it can be removed which is why you would never park a bicycle of value.

These men do now prosper from your bike and many of them are repaint or taped to conceal the original color.
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Old 12-31-05, 12:29 PM   #7
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Around here you'll see dozens of bikes that have been poorly spray painted, usually an indication that they are stolen. Many bikes stolen here are taken for a 'joy ride' or for quick transportation. Beaten into the ground, abused and dumped, usually the same day. That's where most of the hundreds of bikes auctioned by the local police come from. Found abandoned or seized from the thief, who is usually a young offender. At best the offender is charged with possession of stolen property if it can be proved the bike is stolen or for a probation violation. Other bikes get sold in bars or the parking lots of the many manufacturing plants in the area. Buyers, of course, know the goods are stolen. They don't care.
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Old 12-31-05, 01:13 PM   #8
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I think bike thieves operate at all levels, from the local homeless guy who needs a new wheel or a few bucks; through well-off surburban kids daring each other, joy riding or supporting their drug habit; on up through lower level professional thieves who fence their stuff through a third person operating a second-hand store, flea market booth or eBay auction site; to higher level professionals targetting only rarer more expensive bikes, perhaps even stealing bikes to order and operating on an international scale.
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Old 12-31-05, 01:17 PM   #9
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I had mine stolen once, by a highschool student, who rode it to school in the rain. I recovered it there later thet morning.
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Old 12-31-05, 04:20 PM   #10
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I had the interesting experience of meeting an ex-bike thief. It was a young girl who stole bikes in San Francisco to support her heroin habit. She felt really bad about having done that. In New York, however, Randya, organized thief rings will even steal bikes of low value. You can't lock up anything there and expect it to be safe. When I was there, a while ago, I saw an ugly 1970's 3 speed cruiser chained up with heavy chain.
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Old 12-31-05, 04:25 PM   #11
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NYC always has been in a class of it's own when it comes to many things, including bike theft.
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Old 12-31-05, 04:26 PM   #12
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I have also heard of bike thieves on the west coast stealing bikes in the cities and loading them into trucks for resale in college towns like Eugene, Corvallis, Chico and Davis (or visa-versa). You could probably also fill those truck sized shipping containers and send 'em off to indonesia or somewhere.
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Old 12-31-05, 10:16 PM   #13
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I've often wondered about the demand side of bike theft, as in where all the stolen bikes go. I'm still searching for a plausible explanation for where the bikes go that accounts for the facts that (a) bikes of any and all values are vulnerable to theft (b) the theives take a considerable risk by actually doing the theft, (c) the thieves are highly proficient and (d) in many places, bike theft is rampant.

Around here at least, there is no established market in used bikes. Bike stores generally don't bother, so it's mostly person-to-person sales through Craigslist or ebay. It's hard to imagine that anyone could move enough bikes that way for it to be worth their while.
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Old 12-31-05, 10:56 PM   #14
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I once bought a bike for $60, after a while I figured the bike was probably stolen, but by then it received enough tender care that I felt it was my bike.

Many years later the bike was stolen from me. It wasn't so much the cost of the bike that hurt, but all the little things: takes me a while to get a bike Jakobized.

As much as I often still look around town for the bike, I really really hope it's not in a river or a lake . I hope someone is enjoying it.
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Old 01-01-06, 01:20 AM   #15
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5-10% of the original value? It makes me sick to think people will sell my bike for $15
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Old 01-01-06, 10:39 AM   #16
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About a month ago there was an article in the local paper (Colorado Springs Gazette) about an LBS employee ripping off the store and selling high end bikes and parts on ebay. I was just told of an article in the Boulder Camera (I didn't see it myself) apparently from a couple of weeks ago about bike thieves stealing high end bikes from the streets of Boulder and selling the frames and parts on ebay. There seems to be a pattern here.

About 25 years ago I worked for the Dept. of Justice (which I mention for ironic value). I worked with some folks who would boast about the deals they got on Sony TVs (trinitron tubes were new then) which 'just fell off the truck'. The people who buy stolen goods are our neighbors, our cousins and friends, and that funny looking guy in the mirror.
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Old 01-01-06, 11:15 AM   #17
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At UC San Diego, they caught a guy who stole dozens(maybe hundreds) of bikes from campus. Most were in the 200-400 range. The bikes ended up in mexico.

Here in the Netherlands, most bike theives are junkies. They offer you bikes for 10-20 euros as you walk by. It's a crime to buy a stolen bike, and most people take a can of spraypaint to the bike after they buy it.
There is also a bike circulation of unlocked bike. If you see an unlocked bike and no one around, you ride it to wherever you are going and then dump it again. this cycle continues untill someone decides to lock it up and make it their own. Most people I know don't feel bad about this becuase they have had there bike stolen at some point.

The Netherlands has a huge market for used bikes, and I often see bikes that look like they have been in constant use since the early 70's.

Other notes: The world lock-picking championships are held in amsterdam. If someone want your bike, they can take it. Most larger train stations and many centeral city areas offer secured bike parking (fietsstalling) for 50cents-1euro, you get piece of mind.
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Old 01-01-06, 07:57 PM   #18
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Two good bikes movies have bike theft at the heart of the plot Beijing Bicycle and The Bicycle Thief.
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Old 01-04-06, 08:43 PM   #19
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Good responses. Kind of what I figured. I imagine that many urban thefts end up elsewhere-- for example, a bike stolen in NYC is probably parted out over ebay, or sold on Craigslist in another city. This means some level of sophistication is necessary (to set up a theft ring). Considering the sophistication thieves are showing in breaking locks, it makes sense. Thieves in one city, sellers in another. In the end, the demand side is us.

The theft situation in Amsterdam shows that even a "bicycle heaven" has a downside.
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Old 01-04-06, 09:06 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oboeguy
Two good bikes movies have bike theft at the heart of the plot Beijing Bicycle and The Bicycle Thief.
What a coincidence, I watched Beijing Bicycle last night, the ending almost left me in tears.
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Old 01-04-06, 09:19 PM   #21
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A film already on my "to see" list. I've seen the trailer on another video I have, and it looks good-- I'll take it from your post that it'll be worthwhile.
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Old 01-04-06, 09:35 PM   #22
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Does it do any good to write down your bike's serial number? Are police required to check a national list of some sort when a bike is recovered? Or is it just kiss it goodbye if its stolen?
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