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Old 10-29-07, 02:42 PM   #1
duke_of_hazard
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The Freakonomics of Bike Theft?

I dont understand why bicycles are stolen so much more frequently than other things available in a city like cars and store merchandise? From what I have read online, bike thiefs have all sorts of elaborate tools to cut through any lock system. So why dont they use this knowledge to steal cars or break store windows and steal merchandise?

Who actually buys these stolen bikes? My guess is they get pennies on the dollar for the bikes they steal. Anyone buying a $300+ bike is pretty savvy and can smell a stolen bike a mile away. So the people buying them must be totally ignorant and pay less than $50 for them, which is the same price as a brand new bike in Walmart.

So what am I missing about the 'freakonomics' of bike theft?
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Old 10-29-07, 02:49 PM   #2
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Who actually buys these stolen bikes? ?
We do. Ever buy a bike on ebay, or craigslist? Or buy parts from ebay or craigslist?
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Old 10-29-07, 02:50 PM   #3
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I dont understand why bicycles are stolen so much more frequently than other things available in a city like cars and store merchandise? ?
Because nobody cares if a bike is stolen. Only the bikers themselves. The police don't care. People on the street don't care.
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Old 10-29-07, 02:59 PM   #4
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And you will get prosecuted if you catch someone stealing your bike and get in a fight about it. bk
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Old 10-29-07, 03:00 PM   #5
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I would never buy a bike without seeing it. Within a few exchanges of emails, I can tell with 90% certainty whether the bike is stolen or not. Are you saying it is ok to buy a stolen bike as long as someone else stole it?
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Old 10-29-07, 03:03 PM   #6
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How often has this link been posted in this forum about a couple of brothers stealing their own bicycles in the city? Few care, and those that do help them steal it.
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Old 10-29-07, 03:04 PM   #7
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Because nobody cares if a bike is stolen. Only the bikers themselves. The police don't care. People on the street don't care.
The same can be said of anything stolen. The police will file a report if your kid is kidnapped or car stolen, but that makes little difference in terms of recovering your stolen item(s).
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Old 10-29-07, 04:04 PM   #8
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My tuba got stolen once. $6000 worth of tuba, case, tuner, metronome, cleaning gear, and mouthpieces pulled from my car in less than twenty seconds.

I wouldn't have gotten it back if the pawn shop hadn't posted it on eBay. The listing was quickly discovered by other tubists online, and they got the listing closed & passed word to me within six hours.

The cops didn't care about finding it -- they had enough on their hands with murders, drugs, etc. -- but they were happy enough to get it back into good hands.
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Old 10-29-07, 04:24 PM   #9
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I would never buy a bike without seeing it. Within a few exchanges of emails, I can tell with 90% certainty whether the bike is stolen or not. Are you saying it is ok to buy a stolen bike as long as someone else stole it?
No it is not ok to buy a stolen bike. But you are fooling yourself if you think you can tell.
Maybe you can tell if the local junky is trying to sell it. But alot of bikes are stolen buy junkies, then sold to a ebayer, or craigslister, then sold to you. Or taken apart and sold to you.
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Old 10-29-07, 04:26 PM   #10
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Then you've got the pro thieves, they sell to you. They sell to bike messangers who know they're stolen.
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Old 10-29-07, 05:51 PM   #11
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Anyone had any luck with this?
http://www.nationalbikeregistry.com/register.html
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Old 10-29-07, 09:12 PM   #12
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I dont understand why bicycles are stolen so much more frequently than other things available in a city like cars and store merchandise?
Faulty premise. Cars are definitely stolen in cities, and in great numbers. Theft of merchandise, shoplifting, burglary, and even armed robbery, is way too common.

I'd say that far more value is stolen from stores than in bicycles. But that's just my guess.
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Old 10-29-07, 09:34 PM   #13
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Uh, supcom? Route 666 between Gallup and Shiprock, NM (the devils highway) has been renamed. I forget the new name, but 666 is gone. They have about the same number of fatalities with the new name, by the way.
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Old 10-30-07, 02:31 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by duke_of_hazard View Post
I dont understand why bicycles are stolen so much more frequently than other things available in a city like cars and store merchandise? From what I have read online, bike thiefs have all sorts of elaborate tools to cut through any lock system. So why dont they use this knowledge to steal cars or break store windows and steal merchandise?

Who actually buys these stolen bikes? My guess is they get pennies on the dollar for the bikes they steal. Anyone buying a $300+ bike is pretty savvy and can smell a stolen bike a mile away. So the people buying them must be totally ignorant and pay less than $50 for them, which is the same price as a brand new bike in Walmart.

So what am I missing about the 'freakonomics' of bike theft?
First off there is a lot of paranoia about bike theft. The thief stalking bikes with power tools is pretty rare. Most thefts are from improperly locked bikes, unlocked bikes, or bikes with cheap locks (cable or cheap Ulock).

That aside, just about everyone knows how to ride a bike, so the market is huge. Bikes are also hard to identify at a glance, and easy to transport and hide, if need be.
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Old 10-30-07, 03:00 AM   #15
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Bikes aren't stolen more often than goods in stores.

Think about it this way... for every 3 people we know, 1 or 2 of them have had a bike stolen from them at some point in their lives.

Most of us don't know any store owners on a personal level, but let's pretend that we do. For every 3 store owners we know, 3 of them have had goods shoplifted from their store, not only at some point in the past, but probably within the last few months.

Why do people steal bikes... probably because of the low security. YOU are the only one on patrol. Bystanders couldn't do anything even if they wanted to. On the otherhand, stores have an entire "loss prevention" team on duty all day, every day.
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Old 10-30-07, 11:36 AM   #16
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Bikes are easy to steal, fast to break through almost any lock available, make the perfect getaway vehicle on it's own, people are all wrapped up in themselves so it it does not affect them directly-so what?, and the most important thing of all, nothing happens to the thief even if he/she is caught almost anywhere. And there is always a willing number of people out there that does not care in the least whether or not the bike is stolen. So I am suprised that bikes are not stolen more than less they are actually are.

And the bike user/owner contributes to this mess by treating his/her bike as just another disposible piece of sporting equipment by leaving it around to steal locked outside in full view.
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Old 10-30-07, 12:16 PM   #17
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When I worked in the stockroom of,um....a store(doesn't matter which one),at one points our shrink rate(how much was getting stolen) was 22%. That means 22% of our merchandise was walking out the door. I'm sure the bike theft rate in the DC area is no where near 22%.

2 reasons bike theft is a problem:improperly secured,hard to ID. I've seen lots of bikes locked up in ways that ranged from improper to just plain stupid,or that weren't even locked at all. Plus bikes usually don't have the paper trail cars do. Cars have serial #'s in several places,plus license plates,parking decals,road tax discs,etc. And you have an owner's card,insurance card,paperwork for the loan;all kinds of paper that ID the vehicle and prove it's yours.
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Old 10-30-07, 01:47 PM   #18
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Your assumption is that more bikes are stolen than cars or other items for that matter and I am not sure if that is correct.
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Old 10-30-07, 03:16 PM   #19
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We do. Ever buy a bike on ebay, or craigslist? Or buy parts from ebay or craigslist?

Speak for yourself. I sell CL and have sold eBay. All of my bike have been legitimately obtained. MostI've bought at at yard sales or Salvation Army. Only this summer have I bought bikes from their original owners on CL.
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Old 10-30-07, 03:48 PM   #20
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I dont understand why bicycles are stolen so much more frequently than other things available in a city like cars and store merchandise?
They aren't.

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From what I have read online, bike thiefs have all sorts of elaborate tools to cut through any lock system.
Some do. Most of them have nothing more than their hands and maybe a bolt cutter or hacksaw.

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So why dont they use this knowledge to steal cars or break store windows and steal merchandise?
They would, but the knowledge is not transferrable. It's one thing to know how to break a bike lock. It's another set of knowledge to know how to disable a car alarm and get the car to start without a key.

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Who actually buys these stolen bikes?
Plenty of people. Some buyers know the bike is stolen but don't care. Some may suspect the bike is stolen, but they tell themselves they don't know for sure (this justification helps them to sleep at night). Others don't know and are blissfully unaware.

I suspect most bike thefts are crimes of opportunity. The thief just happened to be near a bike that was unlocked (or not securely locked) and takes it.

Last edited by Sprocket Man; 10-30-07 at 08:10 PM.
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Old 10-30-07, 04:13 PM   #21
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Speaking of stolen bikes - I once saw an episode of Cops where they left a nice looking MTB leaning against a building and staked it out. Somebody would walk by, see the bike, look around, and hop on it and take off. They would then run him down and arrest him and start over. It was funny but it's a shame that the people they caught were criminals of opportunity and probably not regular bike thieves. I guess it would take too long to lock one up and wait for a thief.
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Old 10-30-07, 04:53 PM   #22
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Speaking of stolen bikes - I once saw an episode of Cops where they left a nice looking MTB leaning against a building and staked it out. Somebody would walk by, see the bike, look around, and hop on it and take off. They would then run him down and arrest him and start over. It was funny but it's a shame that the people they caught were criminals of opportunity and probably not regular bike thieves. I guess it would take too long to lock one up and wait for a thief.
Thats why a cheap cable lock will probably prevent most thefts, they keep honest men honest.
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Old 10-30-07, 05:24 PM   #23
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Uh, supcom? Route 666 between Gallup and Shiprock, NM (the devils highway) has been renamed. I forget the new name, but 666 is gone. They have about the same number of fatalities with the new name, by the way.
I'm quite aware that the Federal Government spent a lot of money to renumber US666 to US491 due to ignorant superstition. Your tax dollars at work.

And of course the road has the same fatality statistics. Why would anyone expect otherwise?

But thank you for noticing.
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Old 10-30-07, 05:47 PM   #24
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I had seen your road sign, but didn't realize there actually WAS a route 666. But I've never heard anyone work highway route numbers into their Revelation interpretations, either.
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Old 10-30-07, 06:20 PM   #25
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They're stolen because they're easy to tote and the police have almost no interest in tracking down or punishing the people who steal them. Nobody considers a bicycle valuable except the owner.
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