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Saturday, March 24 2018 @ 07:26 PM UTC

Why are cities allowing bicycle theft to go virtually unpunished?

Biking ElsewhereBy Tom Babin, Los Angeles Times

In Los Angeles and virtually every city in North America, bicycle theft has almost become a crime without consequence, so widespread that it is treated less as a problem and more like one of the costs of urban life. Thieves can quickly cut locks on a target that serves as its own getaway vehicle, sell their ill-gotten goods to fencers for pennies on the dollar, and rest assured they will almost never be busted. Law enforcement officials, busy with other priorities, rarely commit to sustained campaigns to bust theft rings or even pursue arrests.

Accurate data on bike thefts are difficult to come by. The FBI reported 210,905 bike thefts in the U.S. in 2014, a number that likely severely undercounts the true scope of the problem. An analysis by the Oregonian in Portland found that arrests occurred in just 2% of reported bike thefts in that city. The same study found as few as 70% of thefts are even reported. Cycling advocate J Allard spent several years researching bike theft and couldn’t find a single person in North America who had a full-time job dedicated to stopping the problem.

Despite this general apathy, there are serious consequences to bike theft. A 2014 federal government survey found the most likely group of people to ride a bike to work are those earning less than $10,000 a year. For such working poor who have no other means of getting around, bike theft is more than an inconvenience: It can wipe out a livelihood.

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