Okay it happened and there is video. I still think this is incredibly rare and the stats bear me out. But I did issue a caveat that you shouldn't leave expensive bikes locked for more than an hour or two.
CHICAGO — Bike thieves used an angle grinder to steal two bikes on the Near West Side — a drawn-out, brazen theft captured on a surveillance camera, the victims said.
Not nearly as rare as you may think. Cordless angle grinders are relatively cheap (and fairly easy to steal,) easily concealed, and very fast given a fresh cutting disc and skilled handler. There's a video somewhere on YouTube demonstrating that and also showing than most passersby don't even seem to notice the thief even during a midday raid. (Granted the video was shot in NYC, but you'll get the point.)
I saw a video along those lines of a man cutting a bike off a rack in broad daylight in front of a San Francisco coffee shop. Lots of people walked by and no one even stopped.
Similarly, the one time I was in NYC with my bike I dropped my lock key down a grate and had to cut my lock off. I did it right next to a NYPD cruiser, got my bike off the rack, and rode away.
Bicyclists are the only people who care about bike theft, I think.
In Chicago it's very rare per the Stolen Bike Registry. Particularly when you realize how cheap, easy and quick angle grinders are to use. Not many people steal bikes this way as there aren't many serious bike thieves. But for those so inclined it's easy as the video shows.
Here's one from Clinton, just south of Randolph. Notice how no one does much...except stare or make comments to friends.
This is is a very common thing. I confronted a guy a few years ago with a battery powered grinder stealing a bike. I distracted him long enough for the cops to show up who apparently let the guy go. Thanks for the help on that one CPD.
I broke the key off in my bike lock at 6 corners in Wicker park. I called a lock smith to help me out with it. I figured I would get a guy that at least looked official with a company shirt on or something. The guy showed up with a black tshirt on and a grinder. I had the paperwork from when I bought the bike in case anyone asked. We even asked urban outfitters if we could run an extension cord from inside the store. This was right at rush hour on a week day which was very busy and not a single person questioned it.
Actually it is very rare......I and others have reviewed the stolen bike registry data and cut locks are very rare (but obviously they happen). Bike theft is generally - that means there are exceptions - crimes of opportunity. As far as crime goes bike theft is not very attractive as you pretty much have to sell the goods online or on the street as stores won't buy bikes off the street. Every couple of years there is a bust of one or two serial bike thieves again but these are the exception.
I also saw how easy it is to do with an angle cutter. I stood outside the Merchandise at night with sparks flying and nobody challenged me. The fact that it's so easy to do -and that there are so relatively few bike locks cut - tells you how relatively rare it is.
Before the hate mail pours in a few qualifiers -
+ Nice expensive bikes like the Giant in the video will get stolen and in some cases the lock is cut. And remember they got 2 bikes! An $800 bike is a nice haul. The few serious bike thieves that are out there can recognize these bikes.
+ Bikes left in unattended areas, for example in a storage room or on the street in an isolated area will also get stolen. The risk reward ratio is high enough in these situations that people just cruising by will come across the bike and grab it.
+ I know there are exceptions to what I've written above. My point is that statistically for most bikers with middling obviously used bikes your changes of having a bike lock cut in a well trafficked area is low.