The Chainlink

We are entering high season for Bike Theft in the City of Chicago. Reports to the Chicago Stolen Bike Registry are starting to come in at the rate of more than one per day. If last year is any indication, they’ll peak out at a rate of more than four per day, and a really busy day may see as many as ten thefts reported in a single day.

 

I believe in the axiom that if a bike thief really wants to steal your bike, there’s not much you can do to keep your bike from getting stolen. But I also believe in the axiom that if you only lock your bike with a cable lock, or a combination cable lock, or a cable and padlock, or you don’t lock your bike at all, your bike is going to get stolen even if the thieves only “sort of” want to steal your bike. I also fervently believe in the punchline “I don’t have to outrun the bear, I only have to outrun you.”

 

Facts:

There are about 2500 bikes listed on the Chicago Stolen Bike Registry (CSBR).

 

20% of those stolen bikes (CSBR) weren’t locked - no lock at all. Nothing. Nada. Bupkis.

 

34% of those stolen bikes (CSBR) were locked with either a combination cable lock, a cable with an integrated key lock or a cable with a padlock.

 

The Chicago Police Department does not maintain theft data specifically for bikes, but estimates that in excess of 5000 bikes per year are stolen in the City of Chicago.

 

Fewer than half of the CSBR entries contain a serial number, which just happens to be the single most important piece of information for identifying and recovering a stolen bike.

 

I know what you’re saying. “Hey wait just a minute Kevin, these aren’t Fun Facts. Truthfully, these are pretty depressing statistics. Throw us a bone, would you?” 

 

OK, but just this once...

 

I have yet to see an entry on the CSBR for a bike which was cross-locked; i.e. two U-locks or a U-lock together with a heavy duty security chain and padlock.

 

The Chicago Stolen Bike Registry now contains a link which enables you to register your bike BEFORE IT’S STOLEN. The link is to Bike Revolution, an organization based in London which enables you to register your bike, enter a photo if you like, record any identifying accessories that distinguish your bike and print a certificate for your records. A dirty little secret about registering your bike with the Chicago Police Department is that your registration drops out of their system every two years. The people behind the curtain at the CSBR have maintained six and a half years of data regarding thefts, and pledge to retain the registration data through and including the date you sell or dispose of your bike, or the date on which you attend your first grandchild’s grammar school graduation, whichever date comes first. 

 

Kryptonite used to do an annual list of the top ten worst cities in the US for bike theft. (The underlying Kryptonite data is proprietary, but the worst cities are based on rate of theft rather than gross numbers, and reading between the lines, relates to claims on the Kryptonite replacement guarantee.) New York was always #1 followed by everyone else. By the time they stopped 3 years ago, NY settled at #3, with Philadelphia at #1 and Chicago at #2. I spoke with the brand manager at Kryptonite a couple of times last fall seeking insight into how Chicago could use the lessons learned in NY to reduce theft in Chicago. Was it the fact that New York got a Kryptonite lock named after them? Nah, it was awareness, pure and simple. The publicity associated with being the worst city in the US for bike theft made people in New York more aware of how and where they locked their bike. It made New Yawkers more aware that they needed to spend some money for the best lock(s) they could afford, and lock their bike every time-even if they were just going inside “for a minute.”   

 

I don’t want to blame the victim here, but 54% of the bikes stolen in the City of Chicago either aren’t locked or are locked with a cable lock. A little awareness of that fact alone could reduce the incidence of bike theft in Chicago substantially. Recovery rates for bicycles where the owner doesn’t even know their serial number are abyssmal. Until these facts change, my strategy is: I lock my bike with two U-locks (and a cable) anytime I leave my transportation/commuter unattended for longer than half an hour. If I leave it unattended for less than that, I have one U-lock on it. If I’m lucky, I get to lock my bike to a bike rack with two U-locks next to a bike locked with a combination cable lock.

 

Register your bike. Write down your serial number.

 

Riding a bike is fun. Returning to the location where you locked your bike and finding it there is almost as much fun.

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I agree with Melanie.  There is no point in making theft easier for them than necessary.  I think a lot of bike theives are casual crooks who see a target of opportunity and make off with them.  Many don't even sell the bikes and keep them around sometimes for personal use.  Looking at some of the eclectic collections of old used bikes that show up I wonder how many of these are the products of opportunist hoarder thieves. 


I"m sure that if everyone started using better locks it would cut down on some of the thievery but it might also just touch off an arms race between the professional crooks and the riders with the nicer bikes worth stealing.   I guess as a responsible bike owner who uses a U-lock and often a secondary cable for the far wheel (I'm a nutter who doesn't QR -being into vintage bikes) I benifit from those who don't take their bike security as seriously.  It's the whole "running shoes and the bear" analogy.  If everyone else starts wearing running shoes I'm going to have to learn to run faster. 

 

But it would be best if somehow something could be done to both deter the thieves from stealing bikes in the first place and actually DO something about them when they are caught other than a minor slap on the wrist.  The criminal justice system in this country is broken and something as "minor" as petty bike theft just isn't taken seriously by the authorities. 

Hello,

 

Somehow you need to not leave the bike un-attended ever. If you must go into a store, or eatery, ask if you can bring the bike with you, or lock it, in your site outside. The other thing you can do it to plan your ride better, so you can plan not to leave the bike un-attended. I realize its hard in the city to do this, but may be you need two bikes, one that folds you can take into a store to do your shopping and going out to eat, and another bike just 4 riding, and bring your lunch with you. Or bike with a buddy, and have them stay put and watch the bikes, while you go in for a bathroom break, or lunch and bring something out for your buddy as well. This can be done.

 

As far as the secure building, not even your apt is secure unless you live in a secured building with a gate, then still bring your bike inside to your dwelling, lock it inside. NEVER EVER leave a bike in a bike area the apartment manager has deem secure, he is the first one stealing your bike. As for storage places you rent, no way ever. If you miss a payment they open the storage and sell off your stuff.

 

If you have a patio that is at least 3 floors up, then store it there with a lock, and a cable, and cover it.

that is my .02 cents BTW.

 

Rene

Our Gang Bicycle Club

We live in an 8-unit condo that was converted from an old small apartment building.  There is a security gate in the front and another out back.   It's nice to keep the riff-raff out (usually just homeless guys who would otherwise want to crawl in for a place to sleep) but I wouldn't trust a bike inside the yard or even in the common area of the front stairs inside without a lock on it.  Someone is always leaving the gate ajar or the locking knob is getting messed up or the return spring on the door closure is not pushing it latched correctly all the time.  Every time someone moves in or out or there is a service guy they jimmy the lock so that it doesn't work right and I have to fix it. 

 

The only secure spot in the building is our own condo on the inside.  I've got good locks on them with extra-duty strike-plates and 8" cement-boring lag screws shot into the masonry with steel-core doors.  Even so, if someone wanted to get in they could with enough force.  But I"m not going to lock up my bikes inside my own place.  I've probably got more valuable stuff like computers and laptops they'd steel first anyhow if they got in. 

 

But leaving it outside of stores when running errands a good U-lock or two will do the trick for a short time.  But I wouldn't trust anything but a beater outside overnight.  I see people with their bikes locked out to the front fence in many neighborhoods around chicago.   I just couldn't do that myself.  Too much access to thieves and too much exposure to the weather. 

 

 

The building I used to live in had 2 bike areas unfortunately contractors left the door open and someone(persons) walked stole unlocked bikes. They were caught on camera but...lock your bike inside.

Anne Alt said:
A few friends have had their bikes stolen from apt/condo basements, where they were unlocked in large rooms.  As Dr. Doom mentioned above, all it takes is one neighbor being careless with the basement access door.

 I don't want any more bikes stolen  T_T

 

Where is SPROCKET MAN when you need him!!!

Sorry Glen-

 

Three more as of 4:15 pm today.

 

9. unlocked bike in garage;

10. unlocked bike in garage;

11. combination cable lock.

Kevin Conway said:

EPILOGUE:

It's Monday morning 5/9-four and a half days after I posted the FUN FACTS. In the time since the initial post, 8 stolen bike's have been added to the CSBR. 

1. unlocked bike in garage;

2. unlocked bike in building vestibule;

3. cable with padlock;

4. combination cable lock;

5. unlocked bike/building bike room;

6. unlocked bike/building bike room;

7. combination cable lock;

8. newer U-lock w/flat key (yes! yes!) sign it was locked to was compromised (boo!).

 

It's like I'm psychic or something...

 

Forgot to mention, we're 5 of 11 on serial numbers.

 

Have you written down your serial number and registered your bike yet?

Kevin Conway said:

Sorry Glen-

 

Three more as of 4:15 pm today.

 

9. unlocked bike in garage;

10. unlocked bike in garage;

11. combination cable lock.

[snip]

It's like I'm psychic or something...

 

Thought it was time to give this thread a bump, as well as asking a question.


I noticed a bike alarm product in a magazine and wondered if any of you have used it or heard anything about it.  Just asking out of curiousity.  I don't think I'd be tempted to use it as an only lock, but might try it in addition to a U-lock.  Your $0.02?

I missed this post, Anne. I hadn't seen the Bike Alarm before. My $0.02 is that we are all surrounded by so many buzzes, beeps, and tones that this probably wouldn't get anyone's attention. When's the last time you looked out the window when a car alarm went off? Yeah, I can't remember the last time either. If you were to try it, I agree, it shouldn't be the only lock you use.

In other bike theft news, I have in the past been a vocal proponent of the Bike Registry Pewar chain, with the Abus concealed shackle padlock for ~$40 delivered. I tried to send the link to John W. last week, and lo and behold, the chain is no longer available. In fact, Bike Registry no longer sells locks or chains of any kind. They now offer two GPS trackers: one concealed in a blinky; one in a headset cap. We'll see what the reviews look like. For me, I still think locking your bike with a decent lock, every time, is the best way to go.

On a sad note, bike theft season has started out at a much faster pace than a year ago. Last April, there were 36 reports to the CSBR. Through April 11th, we have had 25 reports. Maybe it's the nicer weather, or maybe it's because of the legions of well-equipped bike thieves operating in the City of Chicago. Just kidding-of the 25 bikes, 11 weren't locked, 6 of them were locked with a cable lock. 68% of the thefts reported were either not locked or locked with a cable. What're the chances?


Anne Alt said:

Thought it was time to give this thread a bump, as well as asking a question.


I noticed a bike alarm product in a magazine and wondered if any of you have used it or heard anything about it.  Just asking out of curiousity.  I don't think I'd be tempted to use it as an only lock, but might try it in addition to a U-lock.  Your $0.02?

Wow, I didn't know BikeRegistry stopped offering the chain & lock combo- it was a great deal. My husband and I got one each last year before Christmas and I feel pretty good about using it in combination with my U-lock.  That is sad, as it was an economical locking solution.

bike theft season, or bike theft reporting season?

I may have to do with the ever increasing brand name recognition of the CSBR.

Kevin C said:


On a sad note, bike theft season has started out at a much faster pace than a year ago. Last April, there were 36 reports to the CSBR. Through April 11th, we have had 25 reports. Maybe it's the nicer weather, or maybe it's because of the legions of well-equipped bike thieves operating in the City of Chicago. Just kidding-of the 25 bikes, 11 weren't locked, 6 of them were locked with a cable lock. 68% of the thefts reported were either not locked or locked with a cable. What're the chances?


Anne Alt said:

Thought it was time to give this thread a bump, as well as asking a question.


I noticed a bike alarm product in a magazine and wondered if any of you have used it or heard anything about it.  Just asking out of curiousity.  I don't think I'd be tempted to use it as an only lock, but might try it in addition to a U-lock.  Your $0.02?

Point taken. But there does seem to be a strong correlation between and among the number of bikes, the number of thefts, and the number of reports to the CSBR. I wish the message about cable locks and unlocked bikes was experiencing increased recognition.

Duppie said:

bike theft season, or bike theft reporting season?

I may have to do with the ever increasing brand name recognition of the CSBR.

Kevin C said:


On a sad note, bike theft season has started out at a much faster pace than a year ago. [snip]

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