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February 11, 2010 2:00 PM   Subscribe

Some bike messengers last month took justice into their own hands when they caught two suspected thieves, teenage boys who attended a local Catholic high school. According to police, the messengers stripped down the teens to their boxer shorts before taking their cellphones, backpacks and clothes. But there have been countless other incidents, of real and desired vengeance

in Washington D. C., Maine, and even in a land called MetaFilter.

Since bike theft seems to be so low on the police radar in most places, it's difficult to argue against some home-brewed policing.
posted by Danf (129 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
it's difficult to argue against some home-brewed policing

Considering that some people bike because they can't afford a car, and given the general disregard society and police have for cyclists, it is tough to argue against non-violent payback.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:05 PM on February 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


This.
posted by mullingitover at 2:05 PM on February 11, 2010


I dunno, seems like a better solution would be to advocate and organize for more police attention rather than encouraging people to act on whatever their particular idea of "justice" may be.
posted by ghharr at 2:06 PM on February 11, 2010 [10 favorites]


A good way to guard against vigilante-justice-inducing rage is to not spend ridiculous amounts of money on your bike.

Seriously, if you can't live with the very real possibility of your bike being stolen, you shouldn't be spending that much money on it, or you should spend the money on properly securing your bike.
posted by ekroh at 2:09 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


ghharr: "I dunno, seems like a better solution would be to advocate and organize for more police attention rather than encouraging people to act on whatever their particular idea of "justice" may be."

"Leads? Yeah sure, all just check with the boys down at the crime lab. They've got four more detectives working on the case. They got us working in shifts. Leads?"
posted by mullingitover at 2:09 PM on February 11, 2010 [12 favorites]


it's difficult to argue against some home-brewed policing.
No, it isn't. First off, if you lay hands on someone else, it's assault and battery, whether or not you had a reason to do so. Second, what happens the first time the person who stole the bike decides to go armed?

Taking justice into your own hands is, 9 times out of 10, pure foolishness that will land you on the wrong side of the law or the wrong side of the dirt. The tenth time, it's most likely a movie.
posted by scrump at 2:10 PM on February 11, 2010 [42 favorites]


At the motel of one of the alleged thieves, they said they found bolt cutters, hacksaws and a Mercedes-Benz equipped with a bike rack.

*looks at the non-luxury beater sitting in my driveway*

Yeah, that's fair.
posted by quin at 2:12 PM on February 11, 2010


Ironically, Box said, some of the worst positioned racks can be found at the new LAPD headquarters. Some of the upside-down U-shaped racks the city uses have even been cut and the gap covered with stickers, he said. Bike thieves simply slip out the locked bicycles.

Huh.
posted by LD Feral at 2:14 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


What did the people that took the clothes/backpacks/cellphones from the "thieves" do with the items? So they robbed the "thieves" in revenge?
posted by tomas316 at 2:15 PM on February 11, 2010


LAPD detectives believe the increase is due in part to more people using bikes to get around in some neighborhoods.

Is this good news or just the official start of the Era of Green Crimes?
posted by grounded at 2:15 PM on February 11, 2010


A good way to guard against vigilante-justice-inducing rage is to not spend ridiculous amounts of money on your bike.

I was going to write something along the lines of "shouldn't have worn that dress" — but it suffices to say that this line of argument would seem to defend placing the blame on the crime victim.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:16 PM on February 11, 2010 [13 favorites]


A good way to guard against vigilante-justice-inducing rage is to not spend ridiculous amounts of money on your bike.

What!? Nice straw man argument. Seriously, if you don't want to be raped you shouldn't wear such a short skirt.

Have you ever had to rely on a bike as a sole means of transportation?

Stealing someone's bike is very personal. Even if it's a clunker. If you actually spend any amount of time on a bike as transport there are a hundred little things you do to make that bike your own, and I'm not talking about stickers that read "one less car".

I had a bike stolen last year and I was less pissed about the frame being stolen than I was about the handlebar, seat and bar ends that I had on it. I hated the frame but the straight bars and oversized bar ends in the size and shape that I had were personally worth more to me than the frame. It's not about the money. It's about the fact that they didn't make that style of straight handlebars and bar ends any more. I could be very wealthy and it would still take me months or years to find the same exact combination of components that fit my body and riding style.

Those kids got off lucky. Bike messengers aren't exactly known for being kind to bike thieves. I'm not advocating violence, but I've heard about much worse street justice. Stealing a messengers bike is not only messing with their livelihood but also something very personal. People spend years trying to find the right fit and setup for their bikes, especially when you're a messenger.

Replace the word "bike" in your argument with the words "car" or "house" or "computer".

What you just said is so ridiculously wrongheaded and ignorant it makes me want to throw up.
posted by loquacious at 2:22 PM on February 11, 2010 [30 favorites]


spend . . . money on properly securing your bike.

No link, but I read an article about bicycle theft in NYC. The author locked up his bike in crowded areas, left for a while, then came back and attempted to steal it. Even when he was using bolt cutters or a hacksaw on the locks, no one tried to stop him and no one tried to call the cops. One person actually gave him tips on breaking through a chain lock.

Moral of the story: If your bike is going to get stolen, it's going to get stolen.
posted by clorox at 2:23 PM on February 11, 2010


A good way to guard against vigilante-justice-inducing rage is to not spend ridiculous amounts of money on your bike.

They're *bike* messengers. You going to tell a contractor who was robbed to buy cheaper tools?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:27 PM on February 11, 2010 [8 favorites]


>this line of argument would seem to defend placing the blame on the crime victim

I had a bike stolen a few months ago and spent a lot of time trying to track it down. But I wasn't angry about it because a) I didn't spend that much money on the bike in the first place and b) I realized that the inexpensive lock I bought wasn't sufficient to secure my bike, and so it was partly my fault. So I'm not defending bike thieves, I just think it's a practical rule to live by.
posted by ekroh at 2:28 PM on February 11, 2010


Have you ever had to rely on a bike as a sole means of transportation?

Have and do.

What you just said is so ridiculously wrongheaded and ignorant it makes me want to throw up.

I think it's more ridiculously wrongheaded to advocate violence because somebody stole something of yours. It's just a thing.
posted by ekroh at 2:31 PM on February 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


vigilante justice is not a good thing for a society to spiral into, regardless of how trendy the vigilantes are.
posted by modernnomad at 2:35 PM on February 11, 2010 [11 favorites]


In bygone days, certain things like horse theft were capital crimes. I think that might be taking it a bit far for bike theft, but I would be happy to see something more moderate like hand amputation for the first offense.
posted by mullingitover at 2:35 PM on February 11, 2010


Having a [thing] that you leave unattended regularly involves a certain amount of risk that the [thing] will be [stolen/broken into/vandalized]. It is important to take this risk into account when deciding [how much money to spend on thing/how to secure thing/how often to leave thing unattended/where to leave thing unattended], and if you are unable to take care of this such to mitigate your risk to your satisfaction, get insurance on the [thing].

Having said that, if you're going to track down people like this, do your legwork and then bring it to the police instead of taking things into your own hands, unless you're willing to go to jail or get injured/killed for the sake of avenging the loss of a [thing].
posted by davejay at 2:36 PM on February 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


This is the exact wrong thing for people to be advocating, even if it would feel good and justified.
posted by Think_Long at 2:37 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thieves suck, no question and especially so if their robbery hits your livelihood but, uh...what if those two guys were innocent?

I'm assuming that they were caught in the very act of hacksawing a chain; the article doesn't say.
posted by jquinby at 2:38 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Basically, I meant what davejay said.
posted by ekroh at 2:42 PM on February 11, 2010


it's difficult to argue against some home-brewed policing.

I believe the phrase is: "There's no justice like angry mob justice!"
posted by turaho at 2:44 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


In the city you never really own a bicycle you just sort of rent it from thieves.
posted by I Foody at 2:49 PM on February 11, 2010 [9 favorites]


Similar debate has been occurring in the UK. (see The Times of London story)

Two brother's chased a group of three-four men who had broken into one of the brother's homes, tied up his family and threatened to kill them. After escaping they chased the gang down the street and managed to catch one, whom they struck so hard with a bat suffered permanent brain damage.

The judge in the case declared that “The purpose of their violence was revenge and to teach one of the burglars a lesson. It was a sustained attack with weapons. Such violence is not lawful and no one suggested at trial that it was.”

The two brothers were sentenced to 39 and 30 months jail respectively. But a month later both their sentences were reduced, an act that was generally applauded by both the public and the political caste.

How far do householder's rights extend? And is it the fault of an ineffective police force that is leading to such incidents?
posted by the_chap at 2:50 PM on February 11, 2010


ekroh: Seriously, if you can't live with the very real possibility of your bike being stolen, you shouldn't be spending that much money on it, or you should spend the money on properly securing your bike.

There is no 'properly securing your bike.' No bike lock works.

That's not to say they're not better than nothing, but there isn't anything that will reliably protect a bike. Also, the best locks are generally ridiculously heavy (some can weigh up to 20 lb. and then you have to secure individual components on some bikes, too.

What do I suggest? Cops need to start giving a shit, cyclists need to start registering bikes, and I'd like to suggest some bait bike programs - lock up moderately expensive bikes in high-theft areas with cheap locks and stick GPS tracking devices in them. And then actually do something to the thieves. Even a whole bunch of community service, if it was actually enforced, would probably be enough, and it wouldn't ruin anyone's life.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:53 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


The police in my neighborhood have been ridiculously unhelpful in cases of bike theft and vandalism. They do. not. care.

Part of the problem is that if you lock up to anything other than a city-installed bike rack, they consider the bike "abandoned". As in, someone stole the bike that you had "abandoned" for an hour next to a lamp-post. That's how they see it.

The other part of the problem, as you may have already anticipated, is that the New York hasn't been able install enough racks to ensure that bikers have anywhere to park. You can request racks at certain locations, and they will get around to it... eventually. But currently I could walk for six blocks in any direction and not find a single actual rack, and the ones that DO exist are usually already in use.

Another problem is that occasionally the cops do sweeps through entire city blocks, removing EVERY SINGLE BIKE that is chained to something other than a rack, regardless of how long any of them have been there. They are "removing abandoned property". I definitely see the importance of this, as rusty old frames are an eyesore and a hazard, but they clip lots of locks along the way that belong to daily commuters or whoever.

And yes, I lost a bike this way, which I was unable to reclaim.

So. Vigilantes suck, but pretending that law enforcement is the way to go with this (at least in NYC) is sort of a joke.
posted by hermitosis at 2:54 PM on February 11, 2010 [10 favorites]


You don't get to beat people up, steal their things, and threaten them just because you're a member of an interesting subculture. This is what cops are for, and I hope the bike messengers get prosecuted for what they did.
posted by ged at 2:55 PM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think it's more ridiculously wrongheaded to advocate violence because somebody stole something of yours. It's just a thing.

I'm not advocating violence. I'm arguing against your argument that seems to strongly state that people who own expensive bikes and can't readily afford to replace them deserve having them stolen from them. That's a rather large steaming pile of bullshit to be shoveling on the victims of a crime.

I'm really not one to advocate or argue for corporeal punishment, but some kids really do seem to need to have their hides properly tanned by their parents when it comes to shit like this, but I'll readily acknowledge that if the parental figures in question have failed to instill the value that stealing is wrong by the time they reach high school, it's probably a moot point.
posted by loquacious at 2:58 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


These are bike messengers. They're pretty much scofflaws by trade - they make their living by ignoring laws. They will spend good money on good bicycles, as they use them for 8-12 hours a day, at least 5 days a week.

They will fucking wreck your day if you mess with their ride - you're not stealing someone's pleasant afternoon excercise. You're taking beer money out of the pockets of socially maladapted adrenaline junkies at the peak of physical fitness. They all have twitter apps on their iPhones to find you and call in re-enforcements once they do.

It's only slightly less dangerous than trying to steal a Harley outside a One-Percenter bar.

So let's not dwell on the ills of vigilante justice - the professional bike crazies aren't even operating on the same plane as the average citizen - let's instead bask in the warming glow of some dumb yuppie-spawn who well and truly got what was coming to them.
posted by Slap*Happy at 2:59 PM on February 11, 2010 [23 favorites]


Not having to leave it outside is another reason why I love, love, love my folding bicycle. I use it to commute all the time when the weather is warm, and then I tuck it under my desk. As nice as it is, though, it wouldn't be suitable for bike messengers.
posted by tss at 3:00 PM on February 11, 2010


Vigilantism doesn't have a place in our society because, as a whole, it has a net negative effect. That being said I support what they did. To go along with Think_Long's thought, "...even if it would feel good and justified." there is a reason it feels justified, the punishment matched the action. Had they killed the boys very few of us would agree with their actions. It's the subjectivity of the punishment as decided by the victim that makes it inappropriate in comparison to a non-biased (lol) judge. That last sentence was gibberish.
posted by EsotericAlgorithm at 3:02 PM on February 11, 2010


You don't get to beat people up, steal their things, and threaten them just because you're a member of an interesting subculture — ged, who didn't read the article:

"They never threatened them. But they made it clear: don’t mess with another person’s property,” Los Angeles Police Lt. Paul Vernon said. … “There wasn’t any violence. ... They were stripped of their clothes and sent home,” said bike messenger Douglas Forrest

I remember when I was a messenger, decades ago, and one of my co-workers caught a guy on his old stolen bike; he left the guy uninjured but U-locked by the neck to a street sign. As the story went, NYPD ESU had to remove the sign from the pole and lift the guy off over the top, then slide an asbestos pad between the lock and his neck so they could cut the lock open with an angle grinder.
posted by nicwolff at 3:05 PM on February 11, 2010 [32 favorites]


Having a [thing] that you leave unattended regularly involves a certain amount of risk that the [thing] will be [stolen/broken into/vandalized]. It is important to take this risk into account when deciding [how much money to spend on thing/how to secure thing/how often to leave thing unattended/where to leave thing unattended], and if you are unable to take care of this such to mitigate your risk to your satisfaction, get insurance on the [thing].

This is entirely true. However, stealing a [thing] left unattended regularly involves a certain amount of risk that someone, most likely the owner of the [thing], will catch you and [shoot you/beat you/arrest you/strip you naked and take your stuff]. It is important to take this risk into account when deciding [whether to take other people's property], and if you are unable to take care of this such to mitigate your risk to your satisfaction, then maybe you shouldn't be a thief.

I agree that people probably shouldn't attack thieves, primarily because it opens them up to consequences much greater than losing (most) objects, but this is and always has been the risk thieves take. Learning that lesson now, in a relatively harmless way, may serve those kids (and, thus, society) far more than learning it from a cop or an armed homeowner ten years from now.
posted by vorfeed at 3:05 PM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


it's difficult to argue against some home-brewed policing.

No, it isn't. First off, if you lay hands on someone else, it's assault and battery, whether or not you had a reason to do so. Second, what happens the first time the person who stole the bike decides to go armed?

Taking justice into your own hands is, 9 times out of 10, pure foolishness that will land you on the wrong side of the law or the wrong side of the dirt. The tenth time, it's most likely a movie.


I've had 4 bikes stolen from me. 3 of them I recovered on my own. 3 of those 3 were recovered with direct physical confrontation. One time I got laid out by a 16 year old wearing a big ass school ring, I swung on him first and when punched me back my legs to jello and it gave me a concussion and a scar that I still have today. I'm pretty sure he thought he killed me so he dropped my bike and ran away. I walked home with a bloody face and my bike. The other two times physical intimidation without actually touching anybody (just a "buck" and the crackhead dropped my bike!) was enough to get my bikes back. You can sit on your moral high horse and talk about how things are just like THINGS! and aren't worth violence, and violence doesn't solve anything, but you're wrong. At least in my case. I have a 75% recovery rate thanks to home brew policing, which sort of throws your 9 times out of 10 statistic out the window.
posted by youthenrage at 3:06 PM on February 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


A good way to guard against vigilante-justice-inducing rage is to not spend ridiculous amounts of money on your bike.
I know this isn't the stereotype, but a lot of poor people ride bikes. I know this because I live next to a neighborhood filled with poor people, and many of them ride bikes. The overwhelming majority of my neighbors qualify for free or reduced-cost school lunches. If they can't afford to pay for their kids' lunches, I'm thinking it's going to be a hardship to replace even an inexpensive bike.

I am, however, uncomfortable with vigilante justice.
posted by craichead at 3:08 PM on February 11, 2010


I'm not condoning mob violence of any kind, but I've had two bikes stolen and understand the urge for revenge and the frustration with the police. Both times I called the police, and had them tell me that it wasn't worth reporting this as a crime even though I had registered the bikes and had serial numbers. Each bike was worth about 1,000$.

With help from my neighborhood, I even caught the thief the second time, red-handed, in possession of my bike. I called the police with thief and bike both in front of me, and they refused to come arrest the guy saying it was a waste of time to attempt to charge him.

Given the lack of help from the cops, I can't really blame these guys.
posted by V'Ger at 3:09 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


You don't get to beat people up, steal their things, and threaten them just because you're a member of an interesting subculture.
No, you get to do it because you've been fortunate enough to catch them before they had a chance to get away.

This is what cops are for...
Cops are for beating people up?

The unfortunate fact is that the cops don't care (I've called the cops on both a stolen bike and a car that was broken into; they didn't even show up). If they did, there would be a lot less bike theft/home break-ins/vandalism/etc.

Two reason we punish criminals are 1) to give satisfaction to the victims, and 2) to prevent repeated offenses. By ignoring crimes like bike theft, law enforcement does neither. Is it surprising that vigilantism happens instead?
posted by coolguymichael at 3:09 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Seriously, if you can't live with the very real possibility of your bike being stolen, you shouldn't be spending that much money on it, or you should spend the money on properly securing your bike.
ekroh


Oh oh oh. I don't have words to show how pissed off you've just made me and how wrong you are on every possible level.
• You could say that about anything. Computers, cars, your house, anything.
• Cheap bikes don't stop theft. Flippin' thives will steal anything.
• No bike, even locked, or even inside is totally safe.
• For many, whether well off or poor, their bikes are perhaps their most important possessions. Maybe we should all be more zen and not tied to physical objects, but sometimes our objects are the physical manifestations of our hopes and dreams, or a means toward achieving important goals.

Now, let my wish a lifetime of victimhood on you. Let anything you value even slightly be taken from you. May your shoes be stolen along with your bike. May your computer grow its own legs and leave you.
posted by cccorlew at 3:09 PM on February 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


YIKES!

"when he punched me back it turned my legs to jello"
posted by youthenrage at 3:10 PM on February 11, 2010


one of my co-workers caught a guy on his old stolen bike; he left the guy uninjured but U-locked by the neck to a street sign. As the story went, NYPD ESU had to remove the sign from the pole and lift the guy off over the top

I'm surprised nobody stole the guy before the cops found him.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 3:11 PM on February 11, 2010 [19 favorites]


Police indifference causes vigilante justice.

I read an article a couple of years ago (don't have the time to google it up right now) about a high-murder neighborhood. The reporter tracked down the stories of each of the murders in the last year, and found that the majority of them were revenge killings for previous murders, which were often revenge killings for other murders. The cops simply weren't interested, and so the friends and families of the dead took it on themselves to get justice.

The cops don't do anything about bike theft, either, and they won't do anything about bike theft, so the only alternatives are to simply eat it, or take care of the problem yourself. Yes there are problems with vigilante justice, but there are problems with letting thieves steal with impunity, too.

Ideally, we could get the cops to do their job...but is this an ideal world?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:11 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


youthenrage: By your anecdote, I could infer having a glass jaw is good for recovery of stolen property.
posted by boo_radley at 3:14 PM on February 11, 2010


I think it's more ridiculously wrongheaded to advocate violence because somebody stole something of yours. It's just a thing.

It's kind of strange that people can easily compartmentalize all property as "things" and not worth fighting for.

I took your wallet, with all your money and credit cards, stranding you in the middle of nowhere, with a ton of identify theft problems in the future? Just a thing.

I stole your car or bike, which gets you to work so that you can feed your kids? Just a thing.

I burned your house down, with everything you own in it? Just a thing.

If you make so much money that you can replace everything, or own so little of value that it's all worthless, you shouldn't be in this conversation. The rest of us put a lot of time and money into our "things".
posted by meowzilla at 3:15 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


a much more important lesson these catholic school kids may have learned is: "Do not buy stolen bikes, or even bikes that may have been stolen, especially not sweet fixies, because an insane mob of messengers might strip you naked and make fun of you." Unfair and unsafe, yes. But a decent deterrent to accepting stolen goods. (which is why all the stolen bikes i buy are bulky trail bikes...i doubt some gang of phish fans will surround me and make me listen to phish anytime soon)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:17 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Are all bike riders so angry, or just the ones who post on MeFi?
posted by smackfu at 3:18 PM on February 11, 2010


I like to wander in Mexico City alone wearing a Rolex Presidente. I keep getting mugged.

Friends have told me if I don't want to get mugged I should stop wandering by myself or wear a cheaper watch. I told them that is like telling a girl to stay home or not wear a short skirt if she wants to avoid rape.

It is my right to wear a Rolex and wander alone. Any time I get mugged, you can be sure I'll tell you all about how the government needs to fix this problem, because I have a god given right to wear my Rolex everywhere.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 3:20 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


You don't get to beat people up, steal their things, and threaten them just because you're a member of an interesting subculture. This is what cops are for...

I know metafilter can be anti-cop at times, but isn't this a bit unfair to the police?
posted by aspo at 3:20 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


ekroh: A good way to guard against vigilante-justice-inducing rage is to not spend ridiculous amounts of money on your bike.

Also, let's go over some of the problems with this statement.

Good, general purpose bicycles start at about $400. That's a lot of money to just randomly lose, and more than enough incentive for someone to steal it. Better commuting bikes, with lights and stuff, start higher and are very vulnerable to component theft.

And if you want to do something special? A decent starter hardtail mountain bike is $600. A decent starter full-suspension mountain bike is well over $1000. You don't even start to get into the specialties until you go up to about $2500. And let me be clear, this is the minimum you need to do these things - for example, you can't do serious downhill riding on anything but a serious downhill bike. It will break, and you will be injured.

Ok, let's go road. The bare minimum road bike, which you need to ride long distances without huge ergonomic problems or to keep up with a club, starts at about $800. And this is the bare minimum - you need much more expensive gear to be at an even level for even light competition. Triathlon gear starts at about $1000 and that is, again, non-competitive.

My point here is, it's not like the people spending all this money on their bikes are the foolish wealthy. Bikes are actually kind of expensive, once you start doing something more complicated than riding a few blocks.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:21 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Are all bike riders so angry

We are all angry because of the ingrown hairs we get from shaving our legs. Being on MeFi merely amplifies the ire. GRARRRRRR!
posted by everichon at 3:22 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


It is my right to wear a Rolex and wander alone. Any time I get mugged, you can be sure I'll tell you all about how the government needs to fix this problem, because I have a god given right to wear my Rolex everywhere.

Bicycle thieves will steal any bicycle, so in your idiotic analogy, you'd still get mugged if you were wearing a $20 Swatch.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 3:28 PM on February 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


There is also a "Recovery Ride" that happens occasionally where a group of folks will take a nice ride to Pershing Square (in downtown LA) and gingerly ask thieving teenagers nicely for their stolen parts back.

I guess it speaks volumes to bicycle riding, and thief awareness of value, in LA that just a few years ago you could lock your bike up with twine and wishes.
posted by wcfields at 3:28 PM on February 11, 2010


While I am willing to endorse the vigilante justice in this article, nicwolff's story above is actually an instance where vigilantism could go wrong - how did his friend know that the guy was the thief, and not just some dude who bought the bike in a second-hand shop? Maybe he had some way to ascertain it, like the guy didn't deny stealing it, but I woud be wary unless I was basically pursuing someone who had just stolen something.
posted by Dasein at 3:29 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Related: Camapagnolo Shank

and

Photos of the bike thieves in the article.
posted by wcfields at 3:32 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously, why don't we have good, cheap tracking devices yet? I'd pay $5 to $20 a month to have a device concealed in my frame that reported the bike's position. Yes, you can remove such things, but it would be damn hard if it were inside the frame, handlebars, etc.

It works for iPhones, and my bike cost slightly more than an iPhone. I think someone who could create bike LoJack could really clean up.
posted by fake at 3:34 PM on February 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Are people seriously arguing for vigilante justice? Jesus Christ, MeFi has jumped the shark. Just because the cohort meting out vigilante justice happens to be one you admire or are a part of does not make it right.

Advocate for better policing, or technology to recover stolen bikes. But saying "vigilante justice is ok because their bikes got stolen" is friggin ridiculous.
posted by jckll at 3:37 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Stripping someone down against their will is violence.
posted by mpbx at 3:39 PM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


You're taking beer rent money

Fixed that minor error there. There might be others, though.
posted by mediareport at 3:41 PM on February 11, 2010


I remember when I was a messenger, decades ago, and one of my co-workers caught a guy on his old stolen bike; he left the guy uninjured but U-locked by the neck to a street sign. As the story went, NYPD ESU had to remove the sign from the pole and lift the guy off over the top, then slide an asbestos pad between the lock and his neck so they could cut the lock open with an angle grinder.

Assault, battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress. Your co-worker could should have gone to jail for quite some time and faced tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. And that gets 5 favorites (so far)? Despicable.
posted by jckll at 3:46 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are all bike riders so angry, or just the ones who post on MeFi?

Today I gave a clear indication (eye contact, wave of the hand) to somebody at a stop sign that "It's cool, go first". So they start driving and then stop in the middle because I was riding in a circle in the crosswalk. I guess they were afraid of hitting me. Then they start yelling at me to wear a helmet or something. What makes me angry is that I gave CLEAR indication that it was cool, and yet they still acted as though I was gonna trick them or something by going ahead anyway. That's what makes me angry.

A drivers indecision has always been the cause of a ruckus/bruise for me.
posted by bam at 3:48 PM on February 11, 2010


>If you make so much money that you can replace everything, or own so little of value that it's all worthless, you shouldn't be in this conversation. The rest of us put a lot of time and money into our "things".

>The bare minimum road bike, which you need to ride long distances without huge ergonomic problems or to keep up with a club, starts at about $800.

Bicycling is my primary means of transportation. I have two bikes, precisely because it's so easy for them to be stolen. How much money did I spend to acquire those bikes? Zero dollars. One is my dad's bike that is 30 years old and works just fine. The other I put together from parts in my apartment building's bicycle room that the super was going to throw out. Granted, I spend money on lights and other components, but I always remove those when I leave my bike outside so they don't get stolen. I can understand spending a lot of money if you are a competitive bicyclist, but I never understood why anyone would need to spend so much money on a commuting bike when less expensive bikes will get you from A to B just fine. I ride a significant distance every day and I don't have any ergonomic problems.

>let my wish a lifetime of victimhood on you

I've been the victim of several crimes in the past: assault, mugging, multiple robberies, which is maybe why I see such things as almost inevitable and take the necessary steps to guard against them.

My original comment was inflammatory, so I apologize for that. I don't think people deserve to have expensive bikes stolen. But I do think people leaving expensive bikes chained to sign posts is a lot like the situation described by Antidisestablishmentarianist. And saying that that is the same as the skirt/rape argument is ridiculous.
posted by ekroh at 3:52 PM on February 11, 2010


Seriously, why don't we have good, cheap tracking devices yet? I'd pay $5 to $20 a month to have a device concealed in my frame that reported the bike's position. Yes, you can remove such things, but it would be damn hard if it were inside the frame, handlebars, etc.

There is one of these:

Portable Mini GSM/GPRS/GPS Tracker for Personal Remote Positioning

Combine that with a cheapy pay as you go text message plan from T-mobile, and you'd be set.

There are more expensive trackers from more reputable manufacturers, but the concept would be the same.

It would be interesting to take something like a Google Voice account, some web scripting, and the Google maps API to make a real tracking app.
posted by zabuni at 3:55 PM on February 11, 2010


jckll: Assault, battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress. Your co-worker could should have gone to jail for quite some time and faced tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. And that gets 5 favorites (so far)? Despicable.

Oh, please. If you can capture someone you find in possession of your stolen property and do it in a way that doesn't injure them at all, that isn't vigilantism, that's an incredibly well executed citizens arrest. The only difference here is he decided not to risk the legal exposure himself - a pity, since the thief is now free to find other victims. But I understand.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:56 PM on February 11, 2010


Stripping someone down against their will is violence.

If we're making definitions up now, taking my bike against my will is also violence.

I have two bikes, precisely because it's so easy for them to be stolen. How much money did I spend to acquire those bikes? Zero dollars. One is my dad's bike that is 30 years old and works just fine. The other I put together from parts in my apartment building's bicycle room that the super was going to throw out.

So... you are arguing that your dad's money is worthless, and the time you spent putting together your bike from parts is also worthless. Zero dollars indeed.
posted by meowzilla at 4:00 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


It is my right to wear a Rolex and wander alone. Any time I get mugged, you can be sure I'll tell you all about how the government needs to fix this problem, because I have a god given right to wear my Rolex everywhere.

And it looks like it's your right to be an idiot too. Expensive bikes are not the only ones that get stolen. If anything, the cheap ones get stolen more because they aren't as well protected. Most bicycle thefts are a crime of convenience.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:02 PM on February 11, 2010


Stealing is bad, regardless of what is stolen. As we all know, even nominally valueless or minimally valuable things (photos, non pedigreed pets,, jewelry with sentimental associations) can mean the world to us. It is also absurd to say that people should hide away or lock up everything they enjoy owning.

And police officers that don't do their job are bad too, because the inability to report a crime or get a response to apprehending a suspect leaves victims without a remedy.

But trying to mete out street "justice" without benefit of due process is worst of all. First, the chances are excellent that the person caught won't be guilty. How many of those folks locked up in Guantanamo Bay did nothing wrong at all? How many people -- including children --caught by flying bullets in revenge killings are complete innocents? And, assuming that the person is guilty of something, the punishments meted out remain arbitrary, random, and unequal.

I know that plenty of MeFis distrust police -- but better to have a system where the actions of law enforcement are subject to some review than no monitoring of the enforcers/vigilantes at all. And every one may not trust judges, but they are public officials subject to public scrutiny and disciplinary systems, not anonymous street warriors.

In short, I hope both the bike thieves and the avenging vigilantes get caught and face due process under the law, not outside it. And I hope everyone who has dealt with a police officer or agency that refuses to take a report or make an arrest goes ahead, gets the names, and makes a formal complaint, too.
posted by bearwife at 4:07 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


So... you are arguing that your dad's money is worthless, and the time you spent putting together your bike from parts is also worthless. Zero dollars indeed.

Nope. It's just nothing to go ballistic over.
posted by ekroh at 4:09 PM on February 11, 2010


Gosh, if you can't afford to lose an $800 bicycle, it might be worth considering if you can afford to lose a $20,000 lawsuit.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:10 PM on February 11, 2010


These spandex-clad vigilantes are exactly why we need a Keene Act.
posted by benzenedream at 4:10 PM on February 11, 2010 [14 favorites]


Today I gave a clear indication (eye contact, wave of the hand) to somebody at a stop sign that "It's cool, go first". So they start driving and then stop in the middle because I was riding in a circle in the crosswalk.... That's what makes me angry.

I bike commute, so I hear you here. But if you are moving, many (perhaps most) cars will treat you as if you may suddenly start off again. It's safe to say, I think, that most drivers are not cyclists, so they may not understand that you simply don't want to clip out or something. So I'm afraid that in general, if you want the driver to think that you're stopped, you have to in fact stop, and not ride around in circles. I see this with trackstanding, too--a lot of cars think you're "going" when your feet are on the pedals, and "stopped" when they're on the ground. Honestly I can't fault them for this, so I simply have to deal with it.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 4:11 PM on February 11, 2010


Listen, I'm not about to put my cellphone down and figure out if you're stopped or not.
posted by found missing at 4:15 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


The thing that really depresses me about bike theft is that the absolute best locking techniques and gear make your bike only slightly less easy to take. Cars are pretty easy to steal, but bikes are child's play in comparison. The safest alternative is to take your bike into a secure area, which is not practical for a whole lot of people. A folding bike helps, of course.

Basically I can't ride a bike that I don't expect to lose, no matter what. I don't want to live in this world but can't see a reasonable way to fix it.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 4:17 PM on February 11, 2010


It is my right to wear a Rolex and wander alone. Any time I get mugged, you can be sure I'll tell you all about how the government needs to fix this problem, because I have a god given right to wear my Rolex everywhere.

I wasn't aware that a $200 bike is comparable with a $25,000+ watch, but price disparity aside, the price is entirely irrelevant given that you're still blaming the victim.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:18 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mitrovarr: Oh, please. If you can capture someone you find in possession of your stolen property and do it in a way that doesn't injure them at all, that isn't vigilantism, that's an incredibly well executed citizens arrest.

Uhh, bullshit.

I'll assume nicwolff's coworker was in New York State based on his profile.

any person may arrest another person (a) for a felony when the latter has in fact committed such felony, and (b) for any offense when the latter has in fact committed such offense in his presence. New York Consolidated Laws § 140.30

A person making an arrest pursuant to section 140.30 must without unnecessary delay deliver or attempt to deliver the person arrested to the custody of an appropriate police officer N.Y.C.L. § 140.40

Please don't assume that just because you agree with someone's conduct it is legal, moral or ethical.

---

meowzilla: If we're making definitions up now, taking my bike against my will is also violence.

Battery. I'm not even going to waste my "breath" on this one.
posted by jckll at 4:20 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's the process for making the police department care about thefts like these? If they're refusing to investigate these crimes (even when someone goes so far as to supply the location of the thief and stolen property), what options are available for changing this? It seems so bizarre to me, that they wouldn't lift a finger in some cases to catch an individual who broke a law the department is supposed to uphold. This is not something bikers should lay down for and put up with, I think everyone can agree on this.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 4:22 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm not condoning mob violence of any kind, but I've had two bikes stolen and understand the urge for revenge and the frustration with the police. Both times I called the police, and had them tell me that it wasn't worth reporting this as a crime even though I had registered the bikes and had serial numbers. Each bike was worth about 1,000$.

With help from my neighborhood, I even caught the thief the second time, red-handed, in possession of my bike. I called the police with thief and bike both in front of me, and they refused to come arrest the guy saying it was a waste of time to attempt to charge him.

Given the lack of help from the cops, I can't really blame these guys.


totally this. and yet, when walmart calls and says, "hi, we've got this dork stealing a bottle of shampoo ($1.79) will you please come get him," the cops are right down there.

its not what they stoled, its who they stoled it from.
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:29 PM on February 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


You know, police aren't refusing to crack down on bicycle thievery because they have some sort of anti-bicyclist stance. Most departments are stretched to the maximum; it doesn't surprise me that minor property theft, a nonviolent crime at that, is sort of low on the priority list. I'm just saying, I wouldn't take it personal that the detectives don't dust the broken u-lock for prints.
posted by Think_Long at 4:31 PM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


A person making an arrest pursuant to section 140.30 must without unnecessary delay deliver or attempt to deliver the person arrested to the custody of an appropriate police officer

How do you know he didn't call the cops as soon the offender was sufficiently incapacitated by the u-lock to permit safe use of his cellphone?
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 4:35 PM on February 11, 2010


Seriously, why don't we have good, cheap tracking devices yet? I'd pay $5 to $20 a month to have a device concealed in my frame that reported the bike's position. Yes, you can remove such things, but it would be damn hard if it were inside the frame, handlebars, etc.

Most bike frames conduct electricity too well for radio waves to get in or out. You'd have to mount the device outside the frame.

And anyway, it isn't that the cops don't care because it is too hard to find the thieves. They just don't care. Giving cops the GPS coordinates of your property is almost never going to help motivate them at all.

I do suspect that you might be able to game the system a little though. If you were to tell the cops that your friends found out about some bike thief, and that your friends are about to beat the crap out of said thief, the cops would probably go running. Your friends don't really have to intend harm to the thief :) Be careful though, cops won't like it when you game their system..
posted by Chuckles at 4:35 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Photos of the bike thieves in the article.

So that's what yuppie-spawn look like
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:39 PM on February 11, 2010


yuppies are white, silly
posted by found missing at 4:41 PM on February 11, 2010


Think_Long: "Most departments are stretched to the maximum; it doesn't surprise me that minor property theft, a nonviolent crime at that, is sort of low on the priority list. I'm just saying, I wouldn't take it personal that the detectives don't dust the broken u-lock for prints."

That's an unfortunate situation, but it still doesn't excuse stuff like this:

V'Ger: "With help from my neighborhood, I even caught the thief the second time, red-handed, in possession of my bike. I called the police with thief and bike both in front of me, and they refused to come arrest the guy saying it was a waste of time to attempt to charge him."

I really can't imagine that people are supposed to accept these losses and walk away.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 4:42 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


How do you know he didn't call the cops as soon the offender was sufficiently incapacitated by the u-lock to permit safe use of his cellphone?

Because I'm going to assume by the flippant, heroic tone of the story, nicwolff's co-worker didn't face any criminal or civil penalties. And believe me, if you were identified by the victim or the police after u-locking someone's neck to a street sign, you'd be up against something fierce.
posted by jckll at 4:47 PM on February 11, 2010


So that's what yuppie-spawn look like

From what I've heard on LAFixed and MidnightRidazz forums these kids were known to the community for ripping shit off. Hearsay I have read to the effect that they, the vigilantes, called the thieves parents on the cell phone they had on them and the parent said "Uh, that's not his/my phone, I have no idea where they got it from"

The story goes, that the kids went to some cops after being stripped down and the cops laughed in the thieves faces.
posted by wcfields at 4:53 PM on February 11, 2010


Are all bike riders so angry, or just the ones who post on MeFi?

Is there some causation you want to deduce from this correlation? Angry people who join Metafilter turn to riding bikes? I think a simpler explanation is that cyclists have things to be angry about. It's not just a chemical imbalance.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:54 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I never understood why anyone would need to spend so much money on a commuting bike when less expensive bikes will get you from A to B just fine.

I don't understand how this argument still justifies getting one's mode of transportation stolen.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:58 PM on February 11, 2010


You don't get to beat people up, steal their things, and threaten them just because you're a member of an interesting subculture. This is what cops are for

Heh.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:59 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


yuppies are white, silly

See, that's what I thought.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:01 PM on February 11, 2010


> Seriously, if you can't live with the very real possibility of your bike being stolen, you shouldn't be spending that much money on it, or you should spend the money on properly securing your bike.

No bike in this country is safe from somebody with 3 minutes and a 5mm hex key.
posted by ardgedee at 5:03 PM on February 11, 2010


There is a list of allegedly "Related Posts" down at the bottom of this page. I think they are stolen from some other thread.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:03 PM on February 11, 2010


And believe me, if you were identified by the victim or the police after u-locking someone's neck to a street sign, you'd be up against something fierce.

How about if I just padlocked their thumbs to a fire hydrant?
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 5:19 PM on February 11, 2010


I won't say that the messengers' actions weren't totally awesome. At the same time, though, I'll recognize that totally awesome may indeed be on the wrong side of good or ethical.
posted by The Potate at 5:30 PM on February 11, 2010


RE: GPS trackers, it's going to be the first thing to go that your average meth-addled bike thief strips off the bike. You could put it in the downtube, but then powering the thing is an issue. And on and on ...

The next logical step is RFID tagging, like we already do with pets. Many countries in Europe already do this - and the major company behind this has made some motions re: moving into the North American market but unfortunately there's a bunch of zomg RFID 666 devil tags FUD out there so it's an uphill climb.

For everybody bagging on their local PD, it's more or less what Think_Long said - most of them are just pushed too thin to prioritize bike thefts. However there are a bunch of towns now focusing on this via engaging the local biking communities directly for help, which keeps the admin costs super-low on the cop's side:

*Portland PD now ties into community-run stolen bike listings via their cruiser computers

Boston now has similar stolen bike listings/twitter tie-in

Austin is allocating some resources in the same way, I think as part of a recent transportation bill

So: there are resources out there but all the good ones are mostly community driven* and not PD-driven. But many PD's are slot 'bike theft' into a list of 'quality of life' problems they need to focus on (or have recently been directed to do so).

(* self link, sorry but applies here)
posted by bhance at 5:31 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


The justice system in North America is broken. A bunch of people shaking their heads and going back to cars and walking instead of bicycling won't change anything. People getting naturally pissed off and fighting back will. So yeah, two wrongs don't make a right but it might make the right people notice before a string of unanswered wrongs will.

Yes "that's what the cops are for" but they aren't doing their jobs, thus society is a little bit broken. The social contract is a little bit broken, and the gap is going to be filled in from both sides.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:52 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Related: Do police treat people riding bicycles without helmets as like bike thieves? Because I think they should. Don't know too many thieves who would plan ahead well enough to have a helmet to put on after they've stolen a bike.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:59 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, yes, bike thieves wear helmets... there's a youtube vid of a bike thief being roughed up by a bunch of bike crazies (messengers), and he was wearing nice clothes and a helmet, and carrying around a heavy-duty cordless drill.

Nabbing people carrying around angle grinders, drills or stubby bottle jacks would be more productive.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:21 PM on February 11, 2010


The justice system in North America is broken. A bunch of people shaking their heads and going back to cars and walking instead of bicycling won't change anything. People getting naturally pissed off and fighting back will. So yeah, two wrongs don't make a right but it might make the right people notice before a string of unanswered wrongs will.


I bicycle to and from most places, but somehow I don't feel inclined to join your self righteous call-to-arms.
posted by Think_Long at 6:27 PM on February 11, 2010


Think_Long I'm flattered but that wasn't a call to arms, it was an observation of what angry people will probably do regardless of what we think is right or wrong.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:41 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have two bikes, precisely because it's so easy for them to be stolen. How much money did I spend to acquire those bikes? Zero dollars. One is my dad's bike that is 30 years old and works just fine. The other I put together from parts in my apartment building's bicycle room that the super was going to throw out.

Well I wish the bike fairy would deposit a free bike that fits me in my lap too, but unfortunately the rest of us have to buy our bikes.


I spent a few months piecing together a crappy, mismatched bike from used bins and craigslist and it still cost me almost $500, not including the expensive lock I already had to keep idiots from stealing my transportation to work and the grocery store.
posted by bradbane at 6:51 PM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


I spent a few months piecing together a crappy, mismatched bike from used bins and craigslist and it still cost me almost $500...

Yeah, me too. The bike itself was $50. The stem, bars, wheels, tires, tubes, brake levers, brake pads, brake cables, rack, pedals, chain, saddle, headlight, blinky and rear cog cost closer to $400 than further, despite going generic where possible, quality where prudent, and swapped in as stuff broke over the course of four months.

It was fun building it and fixing it, but it was anything but a bargain.

When the bottom bracket went, that was it for me. I needed a wide-tired hill climber with fatman-safe components that could get me to work reliably in all weather, so I got a new-with-warranty "pedal forward" jobbie with low-end mountain bike running gear, on clearance from a locally owned bike shop. I paid less for the whole magilla than I spent on my project bike, and it's easier on my knees, and the triple crank and long wheelbase go up the local hills, over the potholes and through the snow nicely.

The vintage bike's not a total write-off. I'm keeping the frame and running gear of the old Raleigh Record Ace to be my "skinny bike" once I get to the point where I can use a skinny bike. I've also been swapping in the more rugged stuff onto my new ride as I go along... BMX pedals, lights, folding pannier, and soon the handlebars, too. (Nice V.O. North Road bars, $15 on sale. Better bike posture than the ape-hangers that came with the cruiser.)

I know someone's going to swipe it sooner or later. It's insured under our renter's policy, but still. I'm thinking of making up stickers that say "If the rider is shorter than 6'3", and lighter than 300lbs, and you want to see him fight a 6'3" 300lb man, send email here!"
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:33 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


The police in my neighborhood have been ridiculously unhelpful in cases of bike theft and vandalism. They do. not. care.

I have a friend who, a few years back, got involved in some "Community Policing" discussions, meet-and-greets etc. One of the things that came up was some kind of stat regarding the positive "community value" inherent in taking the theft of a 12-year-old kid's bike as seriously as the theft of a 30 year old's car.
posted by philip-random at 10:07 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, police aren't refusing to crack down on bicycle thievery because they have some sort of anti-bicyclist stance. Most departments are stretched to the maximum; it doesn't surprise me that minor property theft, a nonviolent crime at that, is sort of low on the priority list. I'm just saying, I wouldn't take it personal that the detectives don't dust the broken u-lock for prints.

Friend of mine was struck by a car a few months ago; it wrecked her bike and she had to get stitches for the gash. She got the license plate number before it sped off. Cops refused to do anything when she gave them the info; she was told "well, we don't know who was driving at the time, so there's nothing we can do." The systematic denial by of the rights of cyclists to be secure in their persons and property isn't a matter of police being overworked and performing a sane triage to focus on the most serious crimes.

(This does not excuse vigilantism, but I'd like to add my little anecdotal contribution to reinforce the message that there is no alternative, that in most cases when a crime involves a bicycle, the cyclist has absolutely no recourse. "Go to the cops" does not a damn thing.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:08 PM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


ekroh: I can understand spending a lot of money if you are a competitive bicyclist, but I never understood why anyone would need to spend so much money on a commuting bike when less expensive bikes will get you from A to B just fine. I ride a significant distance every day and I don't have any ergonomic problems.

Let's go over all the problems with this.

First of all, any serious bicyclist - even just a club cyclist or moderate mountain biker - will be the first person to want to bike commute. Are you going to make them get a second (or third, fourth, etc.) bike to commute with? I do this - I have a crappy singlespeed conversion for riding to bars and such - but it sucks. Between doing moderate mountain biking, moderate road biking, and light city riding, I have to have three bikes. That is a pain in the ass for maintenance, for storage, and for moving.

Secondly, whether a less expensive bike will get you from A to B just as well depends on the distance and terrain from A to B. Switching from the road bike to the singlespeed cuts my speed to about 60% and my range to about half. It's just fine if the distance is like, 3 miles, but not if the distance is 15 miles. I can easily grind that out of my road bike in under an hour and without really getting tired, but it takes well over an hour on the singlespeed and is rather an ordeal. And of course, hills are a problem.

Third, a decent bike that won't hurt you to ride over a long time still costs a significant sum. Hell, a good seat alone is at least $50. It's not a whole lot to lose, but it's not trivial, either. You got your stuff for free - you have no idea what level of gear you actually have. It's entirely possible that your cheap bike that gets you around actually cost quite a lot and you just don't know.

Fourth, a set of decent bike locks costs over a hundred dollars and weigh something like ten pounds. That's an obnoxious burden on at least two levels.

Bike theft drives me nuts. I could commute, but I can't because it's too far (like 12 miles) and only the road bike would be fast enough, and it's too valuable to leave out, even with a lock. I can't stop for food or drink when I'm on leisure rides, because I can't leave my bike outside and trust it to still be there, even with a lock. I can't leave my bike on the side of the road if it has a mechanical problem, because I can't trust it to still be there. I can't buy used bikes, because the odds are fantastic I'd be receiving stolen property.

This is a real problem. Stop blaming the victim.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:22 PM on February 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


Tomorrowful: Friend of mine was struck by a car a few months ago; it wrecked her bike and she had to get stitches for the gash. She got the license plate number before it sped off. Cops refused to do anything when she gave them the info; she was told "well, we don't know who was driving at the time, so there's nothing we can do."

Did she sue? That's worth a shot. Even if you don't know who's driving, the vehicle owner can probably be held liable unless it was stolen.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:25 PM on February 11, 2010


It is my right to wear a Rolex and wander alone.

You're right, it is. You have the right to remain in possession of your property, and one of the reasons we have governments is to protect that right.

Or are you saying that anyone who's tougher than you has a right to take your watch?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:26 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


The police not enforcing the law isn't just bike thefts, it's systematic across a wide range of moderate crimes like assault, muggings and that sort of thing.

It comes from perverse incentives, where cops actually lose points for allow crimes to be reported.

I stood in my nightgown front of a cocaine bar next door to my house a few years ago and asked the cops, who had been called by someone else because of a huge brawl, "Why can't you close them?" "Well, they have a license." "First, it's 5 in the morning - there's no license that allows a bar to stay open that late. Second, there is no license - I've been in there and looked for it. Finally, they're selling cocaine at the bar - are you telling me there's a license for that?"

The cops' response? Nothing, what did you think? They couldn't even look me in the eyes...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:07 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Soooooo, if violence is justified by jerkish crimes the police don't go after, I guess I know which set of MeFi sociopaths will be cheering me on when I start dealing with red-light-running cyclists with a clothesline, right?
posted by rodgerd at 12:57 AM on February 12, 2010


Technically, rodgerd, running a red light is probably a jerkish traffic infraction, not a jerkish crime. But if you want to lobby to have it changed to a crime, I'm right there with you. I'll be staking out the 4-way stop by my house and making a citizen's arrest of 80% of the drivers who pass through that intersection.
posted by hades at 2:53 AM on February 12, 2010


Even if the police had been called and had apprehended these two thieves, the thieves would have just claimed to have bought them on the street and most likely walked free. Even in the unlikely case that there was evidence and they were convicted of bike theft, the penalties for a minor are well, minor.

I guess it is a sign of how jaded I have become that I trust the mob justice of bunch of bike messengers more than the local police and court system.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 3:38 AM on February 12, 2010


One time my bike got nicked and the next morning I got an anonymous phone call (I put my uni on the bike) telling me where to find it. It cost me £10 originally and was truly crap. It was outside a bike shop on the other side of town and when I called up the bike the owner told me he knew nothing about it, but could I get that hunk of crap off his sales rack immediately.

I have now butchered my current bike so it looks like fluorescent dandy-transport. No self-respecting thief would take it, much less try and sell it on. It's actually an OK bike underneath. My customization also stops old ladies, children and the easily scared from walking out in front of me too, a nice fringe benefit.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:21 AM on February 12, 2010


Bicycling is my primary means of transportation. I have two bikes, precisely because it's so easy for them to be stolen. How much money did I spend to acquire those bikes? Zero dollars. One is my dad's bike that is 30 years old and works just fine. The other I put together from parts in my apartment building's bicycle room that the super was going to throw out.

Man, this is awesome. My sweetie and I just bought a house, thanks in part to her dad generously helping us out with the downpayment.

Now I can show up in foreclosure threads and sneer at people, "losing your house 'cuz you can't pay your mortgage? just get the money from your dad, losers!
posted by the bricabrac man at 6:04 AM on February 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


"Today I gave a clear indication (eye contact, wave of the hand) to somebody at a stop sign that "It's cool, go first". So they start driving and then stop in the middle because I was riding in a circle in the crosswalk. I guess they were afraid of hitting me. Then they start yelling at me to wear a helmet or something. What makes me angry is that I gave CLEAR indication that it was cool, and yet they still acted as though I was gonna trick them or something by going ahead anyway. That's what makes me angry."

it would still be the driver's fault if they hit you. at least they were watching.
posted by lester at 7:09 AM on February 12, 2010


I don't think the police should be burdened protecting houses secured only be velvet rope, either. Interesting that nobody blames a bike industry that can come up with any number of devices for bicyclists to spend a fortune on yet who mysteriously cannot devise a solution to keep people from giving them more money to replace stolen products.
posted by troybob at 8:20 AM on February 12, 2010


"They never threatened them. But they made it clear: don’t mess with another person’s property,” Los Angeles Police Lt. Paul Vernon said. … “There wasn’t any violence. ... They were stripped of their clothes and sent home,” said bike messenger Douglas Forrest

So, um, they're suggesting the thieves stripped voluntarily, is that it? Because, to be perfectly honest, I don't see how it's possible to strip someone to their underpants as an act of revenge without at least an implicit threat of violence. Combine that with the theft of the clothes and cellphone, and hey presto, you've got yourself a robbery charge.

Note to bike messengers: We get it. You're dicks.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:25 AM on February 12, 2010


Now I can show up in foreclosure threads and sneer at people, "losing your house 'cuz you can't pay your mortgage? just get the money from your dad, losers!

Wasn't the point that both bikes would be worth nearly $0 on the market?

If you turned up in a foreclosure thread and made the point that you could live comfortably in a five buck shack and that a $1m mega mansion wasn't necessary..
posted by MuffinMan at 8:31 AM on February 12, 2010


Don't steal bikes, bro!
posted by pcameron at 8:56 AM on February 12, 2010


"First, it's 5 in the morning - there's no license that allows a bar to stay open that late. Second, there is no license - I've been in there and looked for it. Finally, they're selling cocaine at the bar - are you telling me there's a license for that?"

The cops' response? Nothing, what did you think? They couldn't even look me in the eyes...


Sounds like a certain bar owner buys lots of tickets every year for the Police Raffle.
posted by philip-random at 9:58 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


My wife and I had our trail bikes lifted after parking them (locked) in front of a campus building for 20 minutes in broad daylight. We were pissed. The police came, took our report, told us there was very little they could do but mentioned a few places we could check locally and online if we wanted. We put a claim on our renter's insurance, and ended up simply replacing the bikes (at the cost of our deductible). In the end, the replacements are actually nicer than the ones we had stolen - better components (one year made a difference in the model) and we like the color scheme better. However, it still would have been nicer NOT to have them lifted. It's been a few years but it still makes me furious that someone stole our bikes.

My old general-purpose bike was never bothered by thieves, but then again I never left it outside longer than I had to. It's an early 90's hardtail, and it's hot purple. (Hey, it was the cool color when I bought it.) When my wife realized she was afraid to ride her nice bike everywhere, I bought her a used one for daily riding. It's the same model as mine, same age range, black instead of purple, and was $90 on craigslist. We then proceeded to tune it up, fix it up, and customize it, ending up with a very good bike for her, at a final cost equivalent to simply buying a new bike off the rack. But instead of a new bike, she has something that looks like a beater, which makes her more comfortable locking it up.

Our replacement trail bikes? Those come out of the garage only when we are actually on them. Otherwise, they stay there, locked six ways to Sunday.

(And I still want road bikes, too. Who doesn't need three bikes each?)

It makes me sad, though. When I was a kid, you didn't lock your bike, you just dumped it in the yard and it was still there the next day. The one time my dirtbike did get stolen, I found it a day later in someone other kid's yard. I picked it up and rode it back home. I wish it were still that simple.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:29 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Soooooo, if violence is justified by jerkish crimes the police don't go after, I guess I know which set of MeFi sociopaths will be cheering me on when I start dealing with red-light-running cyclists with a clothesline, right?

Probably not, because physically harming someone whose lawbreaking in no real way affects you is about 2000% different than exacting non-physical revenge on someone whose lawbreaking monetarily affects you.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:30 AM on February 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


At least in my case. I have a 75% recovery rate thanks to home brew policing,

And all it cost you was a concussion and a scar. This is supposed to be an argument IN FAVOR of "home brew policing?" Because it sounds like an awfully good argument against it to me.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:39 AM on February 12, 2010


And all it cost you was a concussion and a scar. This is supposed to be an argument IN FAVOR of "home brew policing?" Because it sounds like an awfully good argument against it to me.

The problem is that, as far as I can tell, basically no police departments give a shit about cyclists or what happens to bikes or the people on them. The alternative is not going to the police, who find your bike and prosecute the thieves. The alternative is buying bike after bike because even the stronger locks are only barely a deterrent to thieves, or simply not having a bike because there are no consequences for theft.

With very few exceptions, people don't engage in vigilantism because they want to. People engage in vigilantism because they do not have any expectation of official protection. Reminds me of that group in SF back in the 70's who used to cruise around gay bars in the evening beating the shit out of gaybashers. That wasn't happening because the individuals thought beating up straight people was a fun way to pass an evening, but because it was the only way for the there to be any deterrent at all. So it is with messengers- denied any measure of governmental protection, they're protecting themselves instead by making sure that you'd have to be severely mentally handicapped to steal from a messenger. If the police actually bothered to provide even a smidgen of the protection they're paid to provide, it wouldn't be an issue.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:59 PM on February 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Interesting that nobody blames a bike industry that can come up with any number of devices for bicyclists to spend a fortune on yet who mysteriously cannot devise a solution to keep people from giving them more money to replace stolen products.

Are you seriously implying that the bike industry is purposefully holding back from building better theft-prevention devices in order to keep sales up? Bike locks have improved over the years quite a bit, even if they can still be gotten through with power tools, and nothing is magical about R&D - if anyone figured out how to somehow actually prevent bike theft without hilarious weight, even if it was very expensive, they would sell through the fucking roof. I guarantee you that some hypothetical $300 lock that weighed a couple of pounds but could actually stand up to a standard set of theft-tools would get immediate purchase by pretty much every bike rider I know, because they've all taken way more than $300 in theft-loss at one time or another. Stop smelling conspiracy where none exists.
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:24 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Even if police departments wanted to make anti bike theft enforcement a priority, they'd do it either by focusing on drug enforcement (because at least in Davis, the parts/bikes were being traded for speed) or by putting out 'bait bikes' and waiting for them to be stolen. I've gotten the impression from talking to cops that there's vanishingly little theft of any kind where it is actually worth trying to track down the property. Easier to find the fences & thieves and bust them on substance abuse/other crimes. Of course this only helps with professional theft rings. Casual theft is pretty impossible to effectively police.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:31 PM on February 12, 2010


Don't steal bikes, bro!

For a moment I thought that was a real referee. I am really not down with what the kids wear these days.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:11 PM on February 12, 2010


Because I'm going to assume by the flippant, heroic tone of the story, nicwolff's co-worker didn't face any criminal or civil penalties. And believe me, if you were identified by the victim or the police after u-locking someone's neck to a street sign, you'd be up against something fierce.

I promise you, the rider who did this did not go get a cop. Criminality was rampant among the messengers I worked with, from skitching to scalping stolen NYNEX calling cards to save quarters on dispatch calls to breaking the windows of cars that cut us off (another handy use for a lock). In pre-Giuliani New York, with 4 or 5 murders a day, no-one seemed to care much about any of it.
posted by nicwolff at 10:01 PM on February 12, 2010


What I was trying to highlight is this: At what point are people somewhat responsible for the fate that befalls them. Lets go further, shall we?

Say you took a million dollars in cash to Somalia. You bought a house there, and the seller wanted cash. So, you put it in a red wagon, and pull it behind you outside of a secured zone, basically effective lawlessness. You know laws are not enforced there, even though they are on the books. Lip service only. You have no expectation of any sort of government to intervene, you have been told the police avoid this area. Then, walking down a crowded street, surrounded by mercenaries with machine guns, your cash in plain view, you yelled at the top of your lungs that you had a million dollars, you are buying a nice house, and you didn't care who knows it. You had a god given right not to be robbed, and they better back off.

You are mugged for one million dollars, cash.

You miraculously survive, then instead of being happy you lived, you complain to all your friends you can't believe you were ripped off, and to say otherwise is to blame the victim. You bought a house, and the seller wanted cash. That was the shortest way to get there.

So, where do you draw the line between stupidity and blameless victimhood? Did this what-if get there for you? I knew personal responsibility wasn't popular, I did not realize it was dead. Apparently everything is somebody else's fault.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 3:04 PM on February 26, 2010


What the fuck are you even talking about two weeks later?
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:44 PM on February 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't know, but I'm totally going to steal his car tonight.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:51 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think there's going to be a quiz with an essay on Monday.
posted by bam at 4:16 PM on February 27, 2010


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