Saturday, February 13, 2010

Keep Your Hands Off My Bicycle!

The LA Times is reporting on the uptick in bicycle thefts, and the rise of vigilante justice in response to the crime wave.  The picture at the left from the LAT is the LA police impound warehouse. The following is from Richard Winton's report:

Although crime across L.A. is dropping, there is one glaring exception: bicycle thefts, which rose 29% last year. Nearly 2,000 bikes were reported stolen last year -- and authorities believe the actual number of thefts was much higher because so many people don’t report stolen bikes.

LAPD detectives believe the increase is due in part to more people using bikes to get around in some neighborhoods. A Times analysis found the USC campus, downtown L.A. and Venice to be hot spots for bike thefts.  Detectives recently broke up a bicycle theft ring and nabbed two men who swiped bikes downtown and sold them on Craigslist. 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.

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. 'They meted out street justice. We don’t condone street justice. They never threatened them. But they made it clear: don’t mess with another person’s property,' Los Angeles Police Lt. Paul Vernon said. 'This incident and the arrests are the tip of the iceberg when comes to people stealing bicycles.'   Vernon said the two boys told police they were robbed by about 20 men on bicycles at 6th Street and Grand Avenue about 3 p.m. on Jan. 12. Investigators said they cannot prove the boys were stealing bikes and continue to look for the assailants.  Still, the incident has been the talk of the downtown biking world. 'There wasn’t any violence. ... They were stripped of their clothes and sent home,' said bike messenger Douglas Forrest, who says the action was the talk of various bike shops and collectives.

In the downtown area, the number of bikes reported stolen increased last year by 57% -- and cyclists have noticed. 'They’ll take anything they can get these days. It has gotten really bad.' Forrest said.
Downtown, bicycles are most likely to be stolen between noon and 6 p.m. and Wednesdays are the hottest days for theft, according to an LAPD analysis.
It's interesting that this catergory of crime has experienced an increase.  As I've mentioned many times on Bad Lawyer, the Bad Lawyer is a cyclist and one of the inspirations for this Blawg, was the cultural criticism of Bike Snob a NYC cyclist/humorist who writes a M-F blog of all things cycling, fashion, hipsterism, art, and excess.  One of the recurring themes of BSNYC is the "curating" of bicycles by their owners, particularly the courier/messenger bicyclistas.  For this class of bicyclists the challenge of trying to make a living using a bicycle is complicated by the need to secure the bicycle and its component parts, especially the wheels.  I can understand the frustration and impotence they feel at being victimized as easily as they are in places like LA, NYC and major urban areas. 

Excellent straight ahead coverage of this scene can always be found at the "bible" of cycling, VeloNews which also has an superb websiteVelo News is a tremendous resource of cycling advocacy.

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