Bike thieving for fun and profit.

By » Sat, February 11 2012
4218479978 f2f1070486 450x337 Bike thieving for fun and profit.

Maybe in Wyoming. But not in New York or Denver. (img by Volker Neumann)

I have personally seen 2 bike-theft attempts in my life. Both happened at the same location in downtown Denver, where I worked for a little while as a security guard. One was successful. The other was stupid. The stupid one could have succeeded easily, but just happened to stand in the wrong place and do the wrong thing.

But before I get into any of that, get some perspective by watching this video of guys stealing their own bikes in broad daylight in New York City.

Nothing to it. Truth is, most people won’t even notice. And the ones that do notice won’t even care or will think it’s someone else’s responsibility/problem.

I didn’t know this, so when a guy came to me at my security desk and told me his (extremely expensive) bike had been stolen right outside my building, I was a little surprised. For about 5 seconds. Truth is, security guards can’t be everywhere at once, and CCTV is hard to monitor when you’ve got 40 cameras to watch. CCTV is reactive anyway. The footage revealed fascinatingly simple tactics.

Here’s how it goes. A guy with a backpack walks down a crowded sidewalk, looking at all the bikes chained up. He double-takes at the bike he’s going to liberate. He continues down the sidewalk a little way, where he lights a cigarette and stands smoking for a few minutes. During his smoke, he watches pedestrian traffic, but mostly he’s watching the bike. He then walks over to the bike, takes off his backpack, and squats down off camera (which was too bad). He then stands up 20 seconds later, casually throws his leg over the bike, and rides away. No one around looks twice, despite a steady stream of pedestrian traffic passing inches away.

Unless I’d known that the bike had been stolen, I never would have picked the guy out as a thief. Hell, I’ve spent more than 20 seconds monkeying around with my bike lock and stowing gear before riding away. The police told me and the bike owner that there was basically nothing they could do based on the CCTV footage.

A few weeks later, I happened to notice something weird on my CCTV screen. This in itself was something of a miracle… I was monitoring 40 cameras and happened to notice something odd on a tiny 2″x3″ window. I embiggened the window and saw a guy standing outside the parking garage and looking around a lot. For like 5 minutes. Then he took off his backpack, fiddled with it for a while, and finally stood up right in front of the camera and stuck a pair of bolt-cutters into his pants. Then he headed for the bike cage. He didn’t finish taking anything at all (he was still trying to cut a $90 piece of shit Walmart bike when I stopped him).

I only noticed the guy through luck. I happened to not be greeting people coming through the door or filling out paperwork and just happened to glance at the right monitor at the right time and caught a guy acting hinky.

So say you’re not a security guard and you notice a guy with a fucking angle-grinder patched into a utility pole grinding away at a bike chain.

What would you do?

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