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Where do the stolen bikes go?
July 29, 2008 4:28 PM   Subscribe

Igor Kenk was arrested for bicycle theft in Toronto on July 17. Here's an audio documentary that includes an interview with the man himself: Steal This Bike (be warned, a lot of profanity, and a little pretentious).

via. Wow!
posted by Chuckles (46 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's pretty amazing how many bikes the police have recovered in the days since his arrest. And that shop was so sketchy I"m surprised he wasn't busted sooner.
posted by chunking express at 4:35 PM on July 29, 2008


If you don't want to listen, here is a Globe and Mail article that summarizes the recent arrest as well as the interview with Igor in the linked documentary.
posted by Chuckles at 4:38 PM on July 29, 2008


I am against the death penalty, but in the case of stolen bikes I think the old west solution for horse thieves is not out of line.

Anyway, thanks for this post.
posted by cccorlew at 4:40 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Even an expensive bike isn't as expensive as the cheapest car, and is a lot less dangerous in a getaway or drunk driver situation, so the whole attitude toward registration and tracking is much more lax all around. And when your stuff is stolen what do you do? Where's the universal lost-and-found? I know people whose cars were stolen who had to go find them themselves because the police didn't do squat.

So it looks like this guy Kenk parked himself in one of those big holes that live between the way things should be and the way they are, and he followed all the rules to the letter and graciously gave up the stolen bikes that were traced to him but at the same time he and everyone else knew that a lot of the other bikes he was buying were also stolen, but who could know? See no evil, hear no evil, oh that's your bike? So sorry, be taking it then and I'll work on these other three.

I can see the deep emotional satisfaction that would come to someone whose bike had been stolen in seeing Kenk go down but really, the solution to this is both simple and almost as bad as the problem. Equip bikes with something like VINs, require registration, and enforce that requirement with actual penalties if you're caught riding unregistered so that people will do it, and Kenk's excuse for conducting business the way he does goes away. Between the cost and the invasion of privacy this would require I suspect a lot of cyclists would holler foul murder if it was implemented.

And that's why Igor Kenk can do business the way he does.
posted by localroger at 4:41 PM on July 29, 2008


It's not that pretentious, I actually though the guy was pretty sincere
posted by MrMerlot at 4:41 PM on July 29, 2008


I'm surprised he wasn't busted sooner.

The second part is an interview with one of the Metro Cops who was responsible for a big crackdown ten years ago.
posted by Chuckles at 4:41 PM on July 29, 2008


Hey! I used to live around there. I always wondered about that place. Odd that it's taken this long to actually arrest the guy.
posted by GuyZero at 4:44 PM on July 29, 2008


MetaFilter: A lot of profanity, and a little pretentious.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 4:45 PM on July 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Equip bikes with something like VINs, require registration, and enforce that requirement with actual penalties if you're caught riding unregistered so that people will do it, and Kenk's excuse for conducting business the way he does goes away.

To be fair, though, cars have VINs, get stolen, and are never seen again. Chop shops are a dime a dozen in any major city. Why set up a bureaucracy to discourage cycling, which -- if the motivation is to do things like the car people do -- will cause no significant decrease in bike theft?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:47 PM on July 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also, this documentary is great.
posted by chunking express at 4:49 PM on July 29, 2008


Even an expensive bike isn't as expensive as the cheapest car.

This is so very not correct....
posted by cccorlew at 4:57 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I had a bike stolen when I was a teenage bmxer (and two more since). I saw some of my custom parts on another kid's bike and followed him one afternoon. Later that day I visited his house with my Dad after we called the cops and they were not willing to do anything. They had a garage with about thirty bikes in it and were in the process of chopping them up and mixing the parts. My Dad rang the doorbell and spoke to the parents who told us to fuck off. In the end they had to call the cops because we were not leaving. This was in the eighties and my bike had about $300 worth of parts on it. After they were charged I then had to deal 3 very angry bike thieves who went to the same school as me. Made for some tense moments in various shopping mall parking lots. I'd love to run into them now at a school reunion.

This is why I don't ever have anything to do with police. Even after doing all their work them they still couldn't put down their timbits and do their jobs. Then they leave me in a tough spot.

This was Mississauga so right next door to Toronto. I am not surprised he got away with until he practically yelled it at a cop.

You want action on bike theft? Push for a law that basic house insurance covers bike theft without allowing a premium hike. The insurance companies will be all over the police within a week. Politicians will launch initiatives. Communities will be mobilized. Also, it might not hurt to make parents responsible if their kids run a chop shop out of their garage.
posted by srboisvert at 5:52 PM on July 29, 2008 [6 favorites]


Anyone who read the Toronto Craigslist bike listings knew that Igor was a crook. There's another shoe waiting to drop in this story... and again anyone who reads Craigslist knows what it is.
posted by unSane at 6:02 PM on July 29, 2008


I am against the death penalty, but in the case of stolen bikes I think the old west solution for horse thieves is not out of line.

Tarred and feathered and left at the edge of Scarborough?
posted by titboy at 6:05 PM on July 29, 2008


For those who didn't read the article, the cops are up to ~3000 bicycles recovered, and counting. From one guy's operation.

And unSane, I think I know who you're talking about.
posted by anthill at 6:06 PM on July 29, 2008


I can steal a bike with no handlebars...

With no handlebars.

posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 6:37 PM on July 29, 2008


Here's a great blog post about the raid on one of the caches.
posted by Chuckles at 6:47 PM on July 29, 2008


I read craigslist and I have no idea what you're getting at, unSane. C'mon, spill it.
posted by lekvar at 6:48 PM on July 29, 2008


> Equip bikes with something like VINs, require registration...

Bikes are light, easily picked up and transported, and mandatory registration will not change that. An angle grinder and can of spray paint will take care of the VIN, and there will continue to be too many bike thefts for the police to take care of.
posted by ardgedee at 6:52 PM on July 29, 2008


The other store that comes up a lot in conversation, and in the documentary, is Uncle Jacob's. It seems that while Uncle Jacob's may have been a problem in the past, it isn't now.
posted by Chuckles at 6:59 PM on July 29, 2008


I read the Globe article this weekend and just couldn't believe that someone could openly operate as a fence for years and get away with it. If he really was not just accepting stolen bikes, but soliciting theft -- maybe even stealing some bikes directly, as claimed here -- then hopefully this means that we'll see some drop in thefts.

But if there are other lowlifes out there ready to fill his niche, I'm not getting my hopes up.
posted by maudlin at 7:13 PM on July 29, 2008


I read this article in the SF Bay Guardian a while ago that was similar. Just remember, the white truck next to Best Buy.
posted by bertrandom at 7:21 PM on July 29, 2008


in San Francisco's rich bicycling culture, thieves have found a gold mine. About 1,000 bikes are reported stolen in the city each year, but the police say the actual number is probably closer to 2,000 or 3,000, since most people don't file reports.

So, San Fran's number 2 ranking isn't really well justified then..
posted by Chuckles at 7:37 PM on July 29, 2008


Stillepost thread on the subject.

When I first read about the bust, I figured the whole matter would blow over quickly, but this story just keeps getting bigger and bigger (as evidenced by its presence here of course).
posted by stinkycheese at 7:47 PM on July 29, 2008


UnSane is likely referring to someone who is taunting "Paully" on craigslist, but such posts are deleted from craigslist. Here's one from my cache,
http://toronto.en.craigslist.ca/tor/bik/774345190.html
Date: 2008-07-29, 7:20AM EDT

Are you getting nervous, Paully?
Do you think the "White Lion" is going to save you?
Sleep tight, retard!
You're next....

PostingID: 774345190
Realistically I don't think, Paully(*) will not get caught nor will other pawn
shops / chop shops. Because they all know the rules of the game and will not be as careless as Igor.

Igor was only caught because he directed someone to steal a bike
literally from across the street from his shop, (while unknowingly being
watched by cops).

I'm pretty sure other shops will not direct thefts (at least for the next while). They'll follow the law to a T. Sure they may still buy stolen bikes but they'll log the serial numbers in their ledgers, store it for 3 weeks then legally have full ownership over the merchandise.

Frankly I don't know of a solution. Due to the record keeping being done by the pawn/chop shops they have every incentive to describe the "Red Cervelo with SN: 01G5" as "Rose Cervello SN: OI6S". GIGO. The current papyrus registry at the pawn/chop shops are pretty much useless, except for the numbers game they'll play with Igor. (3200 bikes so far recovered but his ledgers don't have anywhere near 3200 bikes listed).

Hmm.. maybe if the pawn/chop shops had to take a picture of the bikes, submit them online and let netizens browse them (sorting & tagging may be too onerous a task for a continual volunteer basis).

Hmm.. on second thought, photos are falsifiable / re-usable and catching Igor with insufficient paper records is more convincing than if he had insufficient digital records.

(*) no I don't know who Paully is or what the "White Lion" is.
posted by ecco at 8:23 PM on July 29, 2008


I hope they cut his balls off.
posted by dobbs at 8:24 PM on July 29, 2008


Typo. What I meant to type was: Realistically I don't think, Paully(*) will get caught nor will the owners of other pawn shops / chop shops.
posted by ecco at 8:50 PM on July 29, 2008


An angle grinder and can of spray paint will take care of the VIN

What about a few ridiculously cheap microchips embedded in the frame?

At purchase, scan, submit name & unique reg# to central database. If legitimately resold, $10 at a bike shop to change it over. If junked, same deal.

I don't know that the tech barriers to doing this relatively unbreakably would be, but it's an idea.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:21 PM on July 29, 2008


So, ah, I've actually written about what DNAB's talking about, over at a free site I run for registering and recovering stolen bicycles. (selflink, yes, but relevant)
posted by bhance at 11:06 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


DNAB, bhance, I know that U of T was experimenting with rfids implanted on the bike, but that's all I know about the project.

Given the cost of rfids, it seems simple for the cyclist's union, police, and major bike stores to implement if they can cooperate for more than a few minutes.
posted by Chuckles McLaughy du Haha, the depressed clown at 6:48 AM on July 30, 2008


I like DNABs idea, but there are some relatively simple and low-tech methods to help ID your bike. Sure, someone can destroy the serial numbr that is stamped, engraved, etched or otherwise marked on the bottom bracket shell. Your handy friend can show you how to remove your tires from the rims, lift up the rim strip and write you social security number or name on the rim. Your wheels are now marked. Pull the seatpost, drop a business card or something that IDs you into the seat tube. Pull the stem, repeat with fork steerer tube. Etc, etc. Be creative.
posted by fixedgear at 8:12 AM on July 30, 2008


> What about a few ridiculously cheap microchips embedded in the frame?

I like that idea more than a VIN (and might even be cheaper to implement than a national VIN system), but I'm skeptical whether RFID chips are scannable inside steel or aluminum tubing.

The primary problem is still not one of identifying what's been stolen but of reducing incidences of stealing. Cars aren't stolen as frequently as bikes because they're too large to pick up and are self-securing; positive identification systems aid in vehicle recovery and do relatively little to prevent theft.
posted by ardgedee at 8:29 AM on July 30, 2008


RFIDs in bikes? Had that a decade ago in the UK. Cost something like $50 to register a bike for life, and gave you enough of a discount on your bike insurance that it paid for itself in a few years. The chip was embedded in a little plastic one-way capsule that you could slide down into your seat tube, but it couldn't be got back out. The company supplied police departments with chip readers, too. For the life of me, I can't remember the name of the company ...

I like the approach of the Batavus Personal Bike - the serial number is laser-cut into the frame.
posted by scruss at 9:53 AM on July 30, 2008


The primary problem is still not one of identifying what's been stolen

Having even a basic layer of ID baked into the process (as an opt-in) would still go a loooong way when they nail guys like Kenk. Most police depts (esp. on campus) have warehouses full of bikes they can't match to owners. And these depts don't usually share data - even if the city is keeping track of all their serials and registrants, they don't necessarily share that data with the local campus, or the next town over.

Registration is near-mandatory in Japan. And while 'mandatory' would fail here in the US (especially in Detroit, where they just screwed this up big time) it's still pretty silly that most people don't even bother to write down their $700 bike's serial number. So something that could be offered at the point of sale ("Another $1 and we register this bike to help find it if it get stolen") - be it RFID, vins, etching, whatever - would go a long way.

(also, there are specific RFID's that'll work through all kinds of materials - glass, metal, water, etc. There's a give and take on reader proximity but they do exist.)
posted by bhance at 10:01 AM on July 30, 2008


scruss: Trovan? They also tie into the immobilise personal-property registration database so it could have been sold as either name...

The UK's years ahead of us folks on this whole area - like you said: bike insurance. We can't even seem to fathom the idea over here for some reason.
posted by bhance at 10:10 AM on July 30, 2008


bhance: The stolen bike registry is great! Have you looked into getting it working with SMS messages?
posted by Pronoiac at 10:56 AM on July 30, 2008


Jesus, that Batavus is gorgeous.
posted by everichon at 11:38 AM on July 30, 2008


pronoiac: yes - check your mefi mail
posted by bhance at 1:38 PM on July 30, 2008


bhance: no, DataTag, who (curiously) have no website.
posted by scruss at 8:33 PM on July 30, 2008


The New York Times just ran a story on Igor.
posted by Toekneesan at 7:39 AM on August 22, 2008


In a Cyclist-Friendly City

I'm not sure if they know what 'friendly' means. Perhaps they mean 'not outright calling for all cyclists to die in chemical fires, yet'?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:08 AM on August 22, 2008


Yeah, Toronto is definitely not a cyclist friendly city. Unless that just means Toronto is a city where people ride bikes, which is true. I think we beat our cyclist fatality totals for 2007 halfway through 2008. Go Toronoto! Go!
posted by chunking express at 8:25 AM on August 22, 2008


Here's a video of a bike being stolen in Toronto and a story about the problem. Via Chuckles in the MeFi bike challenge discussion group at WeEndure
posted by Toekneesan at 10:06 AM on August 22, 2008


via dobbs, actually :)
(I was going to cross post that link too, but then I went and got lunch instead)
posted by Chuckles at 10:22 AM on August 22, 2008


Doh, right, Sorry dobbs.

Last time I was in Toronto was six years ago but I brought my bike to get around. I was there for about a week. Loved how the they used train lines for bike paths. There's some cruel urban design for ya. How oblivious do you need to be to allow a recessed rail to run parallel within a bike path? I didn't know where to look, ahead at the cars around me, or on the road to avoid the gap. I hope that's been fixed.

It seemed like they were trying to make the town bike friendly, but hadn't quite committed to going all the way. And some things were just dumb. As for cars and trucks, well let's just say it was there I learned that not all Canadians are as polite as the American stereotype portrays them to be.
posted by Toekneesan at 10:24 AM on August 22, 2008


I'm not sure if they know what 'friendly' means.

Toronto is cycle-friendly compared to, say, Guelph or North York or Sault Ste Marie, which is to say that the average speed of traffic is fairly low and Toronto has sidewalks and places to lock your bike. Or, say, compared to the 401. Toronto is way more bike-friendly than a 16-lane highway.
posted by GuyZero at 11:25 AM on August 22, 2008


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