Community action on bicycle theft - bike shop insight
How do you think we can all individually have an impact on reducing bicycle theft?
We recently asked 10 London bike shops to tell us what they think community action can do to tackle bicycle theft.
Stop buying stolen stuff. I don’t really blame the bike thieves, they’re just responding to the market. If people didn’t buy stolen goods, people wouldn’t steal them.
Be vigilant when you see someone going at a bike lock. It’s surprising how easy it is to bust out an angle grinder in the middle of the day and have no one batter an eyelid. We know this from helping out customers with lost keys or seized locks.
Trying to come up with a solution or bicycle theft prevention scheme would be really hard. There are things like writing down the frame number and the code stamping programme that the police do already. I think something via social media would be the way to go though. People are constantly checking things on social media and it would be the quickest way of getting the word out that a bike had been stolen.
One thing would be making sure that none of us buy a stolen bike. Some people buy on the internet or at certain markets and do not seem to make any effort to avoid buying stolen bikes – this is simply irresponsible! We can also help by keeping our eyes open and reporting suspicious behaviour and also advocating the provision of sensible cycle parking in well-lit busy areas.
Avoid buying second hand bikes without proof of purchase, especially market stalls and gumtree sales. We have witnessed first-hand the repercussions of honest buyers being caught in this situation which have resulted in being chased down by the( very angry) original owner. Make sure to keep a note of your bicycle frame numbers and try to get it marked with the police.
I think it’s hard especially when the police are not that interested in helping you. You basically have to do the police work yourself and ask for their help to recover it if you find it. I would love to see the police doing some sting operations to target the professional bike thief’s and disrupt their gangs and networks.
GPS trackers are also getting smaller and cheaper maybe more people can use these and it would help the police finding these bikes.
You guys at Stolen Ride have the right idea I think. If we can communicate within a network of shops, websites, forums or mobile apps and if bikes are reported as stolen then they will be easier to track and easier for a potential buyer to check on before purchase. Not buying a bike which has the classic all over black spray can treatment is pretty obvious but also asking questions to the seller about the bike and trying not to be too convinced by a great deal if it seems like a dodgy situation. For the long term I really think that a way of checking a bike before buying would be great. The police tracking numbers are pretty good but I don’t know how effective they are unless your bike is recovered by the police and it isn’t a system that is freely available or easy to access unless you happen to stumble on it. Not every bike shop is set up to register bikes and therefore it doesn’t happen as much as it could.
First, people can stop buying stolen bikes. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Sometimes you can’t be sure of course, but if you’re buying a grand’s worth of bike for a hundred quid, and that’s been rattle-canned black, either you know it’s been nicked, or you’re deluding yourself. The most frustrating moments in our shop are when customers come in bemoaning their recently stolen bike, and then announce they don’t want to buy a bike from us; they’ll go down Brick Lane and buy a replacement on the market for £50.
IT’S REALLY SIMPLE: IF YOU GIVE MONEY TO THESE PEOPLE, YOU’RE PAYING THEM TO STEAL YOUR BIKE, AND MINE!
Another factor in this of course is the diffusion of responsibility – the phenomenon that allows dozens of people to walk past someone lying injured in the road, for example. A product of mass urbanisation, late capitalism, the digital age and the deep-running isolation that underpins much of modern life, it’s the conscious or unconscious thought that ‘I don’t need to do anything to help – there are plenty of other people around who can do something instead’. Bicycles get stolen in public view in the middle of the day on busy streets all the time. People notice what’s occurring and look the other way. They don’t want to have their time occupied by something that can remain ‘someone else’s problem’ as long as they can pretend to ignore it. It’s a much bigger problem than just bicycle theft. It’s the fact that we’re all sociopaths now.
If we all go out with baseball bats then that should stop most thieves. Haha, we’ve had this discussion so many times in the shop. It’s hard to say if the cycling community could have any kind of impact to be honest, you could argue that if people stopped buying second hand bikes then there would be no market for them and theft would diminish. But not everyone knows they’re buying a second hand bike, a lot are bought in good faith and some people are on a budget so second hand is a good opportunity to get a good deal. If cyclists were more knowledgeable on security then that would be a good way for the individual cyclist to combat theft. Buying locks that are suitable for their bicycle. Knowing how to lock it up correctly, picking suitable places to secure it to.
Until the second-hand market stop selling stolen bikes this will always be a major problem.
The answers above cover community action, but further insight from our interviews can be seen in the following posts: