city bikes

3 options for solving bike crime … but only 1 that works

It’s clear that bike crime is a big issue, and it’s one that needs addressing fast. And that’s not just because of how much it impacts the victims. We also know that bike crime is stopping more people from cycling in our cities. It’s time for a solution.

Finding a solution

In this blog series we’ve explained how three key factors affect bike crime levels – risk (both perceived and real), liquidity (how easy stolen bikes are to sell) and reward (how much stolen bikes sell for). Finding a solution to bike crime means tackling at least one of these areas to tip the balance back in the favour of cyclists. But which one?

Addressing reward isn’t really an option. More specialist and e-bikes means the value of bikes is going to increase. And, if we are serious about getting more people on their bikes, we shouldn’t want to stop this. After all, shouldn’t we be able to ride the bikes we want without the constant fear of having it stolen?

So what about making stolen bikes harder to sell on? Here, there is a slightly higher chance of success. In cases where law enforcement can harness the know-how of urban cyclists (like this recent crackdown on chop shops in San Francisco), it’s possible to score some temporary successes. But, as bike thieves get more and more savvy, and with the internet offering hassle-free ways to sell on stolen bikes, the reality is that it will take a lot of resources, and lot of time, to tackle the sale of stolen bikes.

So, increasing the risk looks like the fastest, most effective solution. And let’s not forget that risks and punishments aren’t the same. Increasing punishments isn’t shown to have any concrete effect on theft levels. Plus, for punishments to be increased, you need action at a political level, which is often slow and inconsistent.

But increasing the risk for thieves, and increasing the perception that they might get caught, is something that can be achieved, right now.

Ramping up the risk

First up, we know that increasing perceived risk works. Criminologists have found that a higher risk of being caught, whatever the potential punishment, brings down theft levels.

The challenge with increasing risk is that – as many victims have experienced – bike crime remains a low police priority.

So, this means the best people to empower in this situation are us bikers. Here’s why –  we’re committed, it’s a priority for us, we are well placed to act. So, let’s put the power in the hands of cyclists themselves. And this doesn’t mean vigilantism. It just means increasing the likelihood that thieves will be noticed, and reminding them that they cannot expect to act uninterrupted.

How do we do this?

Conventional bike locks, when applied correctly, can slow bike thieves down, but that’s about it. When undisturbed, bike thieves can tackle any conventional locks on the market. And, with 50% of bike crimes taking place in and around the home, very often bike thieves have all the time they need.

But even if they are unsuccessful, there is still very little risk on the part of the thieves. They know how to work without getting noticed.

To be effective, bike security must do more to must boost the risk for bike thieves, both perceived and real. And smart security solutions are now bringing a range of new risks into play:

  • the risk of being tracked,
  • the risk of the owner interrupting you because they have been alerted,
  • the risk of your cover being blown because of an ultra-loud alarm.

And as the risks increase, prospective thieves will think twice.

What do you think?

How would GPS tracking and an alarm system affect bike thieves and the way they work? Would you feel safer leaving your bike in public if you received alerts when it was tampered with? How else can we empower cyclists to tackle bike crime? Let us know what you think by commenting on our Facebook page here and don’t forget to share this article with your fellow cyclists.