Vigilante Blogging 

Hidden Camera and Microphone in Bait Bike

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Have you ever wanted to get a good look at who stole your bike?

Now you can... or at least, we can!  Last week, one of our team members, Elijah and Ingo spent the afternoon modding a standard web cam for use in our bait bike.  After removing the plastic housing and trimming off some of the unneccessary pieces of the electronics board, we inserted the micro video camera inside of the stem of our bait bike. The results exceeded our expectations, and we're pretty impressed with the clarity of the image it can capture.

The version depicted in this video is just a temporary proof of principle, but we've already got a line on a sound-activated video camera and microphone that we will use in our video footage for the To Catch a Bike Thief web series that will record reasonably good quality video and audio and can store up to 16GB worth of video.

Stay tuned - in a future blog entry, we'll review the Loc8tor homing beacon that we'll use to augment the GPS tracking in our bait bike.

Have you got any clever ideas you'd like to share about tracking and surveillance gear we can put into future bait bikes?


How I got my bike back

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Have you ever had that sinking feeling when you realize your bike has been stolen?

Bill Lyle had a bike snatched right from under his nose and tells of his harrowing adventure getting his stolen bike back in Vancouver's downtown east side!  Here is his story:

 

Bill Lyle and his bikeIt all happened in June 2004. I was running late for a Storyboard meeting I had down in Gastown. I'm a professional Illustrator and was hired to draw for a TV commercial that was selling a product that found studs in your walls so you could hang stuff. Anyways, I had no change for the meter and had no time to get change so I decided I couldn't take my truck down there. I figured I'd just ride my bike. I grabbed my bike and closed my apartment door when I suddenly realized I had just locked my keys inside. My key chain had the key to my bike lock. No big deal I thought.

I pedaled down to my meeting in Gastown. The production office was located down a path off of Water street. When I arrived, I put my bike up against the front window of the office then dragged a big plant in front of my bike to slow down any thieves from trying to get at it. The reason I didn't bring my bike inside was at the time I was a little embarrassed to be riding my bike to this meeting. I worked in this "slightly high brow business" and thought I had a reputation to uphold. What can I say, I didn't know much back then. I had nothing to be ashamed of though, this was a nice bike worth about a $1000. The one thing I really didn't want to admit was that it was on loan from my older sister!

I went in to my meeting which was just a room away from the lobby where I could see my bike against the glass. I was highly aware that this bike could be stolen if I didn't keep an eye on it. So there I was taking notes from a Director I was working with and every 30 seconds I'd lean back in my chair to peer through the door and make sure my bike was still there.

Everything was ok for my first 10 checks. Then the Director had a long winded bit of direction for me and I was scribbling it all down, all the while realizing that it had been a while since I'd last done a bike check. Finally, I got a moment to take a look. I leaned back... leaned back a little further.. I almost fell out of my chair when I noticed... MY BIKE WAS GONE!!

For some reason, I didn't say anything for the first minute. Then I told the Director I couldn't concentrate because I thought my bike had just been stolen. He was like, "Oh no, go check on it!"

I walked outside and was horrified. I took my eyes off this bike for a minute and a half and it vanished!

Just as the horror was intensifying, a rough looking guy came walking up to me with a bike tire over his shoulder. He was distressed and shouting in his thick french accent, "I tried to stop the guys from stealing your bike, but I couldn't chase after them because look, I have two broken ankles."

This guy looked like he'd seen better days but I thanked him for his honesty. I asked where they went and he pointed in the general direction. Just behind him was a security guard who watched over the businesses there on the path. I ask her if she had seen anything. She said she didn't but she gave me some good advice as to what happened when bikes go missing. The thieves generally take them into alleys where they show off their latest score to the others down there. It's like a, "look what I got", sort of thing. After that, they may take them to the local pawn shops to try and get some quick money for the bike. Maybe $20 is all they would want for a $1000 bike. This money would most likely go toward buying some drugs or alcohol. I thanked her and set off in my search.

As I stepped out onto Water street I was full of rage and determination. These guys won't get away with this! At the same time, I recalled an experience that a friend of mine had about 6 months previous. He had some luggage stolen out of his van one night by the Cambie pub. He went right into the heart of the homeless, asked around, got some info in exchange for cash and a few hours later was reunited with his luggage. I was looking to try to put his experience to work for me.

Before I did anything, I figured I should try the police. I called them and told them of a bike theft. What they told me was something to the effect of if I report it stolen, it will be a police investigation and if it shows up it would be a while before I'd see it again. The likelihood of them retrieving it were slim to none so I decided not to involve the police. I had to do this private detective style!

I saw an alley or two that were well populated. I took a deep breath and set forth to ask some questions to some seriously down and out people. This was a dangerous situation. As I set out, fear and reality set it, this was crazy! Also, the strong stench of urine turned me away from going forward.

After that debacle, I went into a few pawn shops and asked if anyone had seen the bike. The answer was, "No" again and again but I left some business cards with them in the hope that maybe someone would show up with my bike.

pawn shopI wandered Water street for a few more minutes and was headed to the last pawn shop that I was told about. I walked in and as I was moving forward through the shop I was passed by a peculiar fellow. We exchanged eyes, it was a little weird. I walked up to the shop keeper and asked about my bike; I described it in detail. He gave me a look and said I should turn around and catch up with that guy I just passed in the shop who was now out on the street. He said that guy could maybe help me.

I ran out onto the street and caught up with that guy. I explained my situation and offered him $40 if he knew anything. He considered this then told me he could help me get my bike back.

Now I'm walking with this guy down the street. Asking him all sorts of questions. "Who did it? Where are they? What are my chances of getting it back?" Most of all I did this in a calm way, I had to play it cool. I even asked him questions about himself. I tried to make this as pleasant as can be.

We headed toward Hastings street. When we got there, he told me to wait on the sidewalk as he walked into an alley. I stood there for a while thinking, "I went from working on a TV commercial in a professional setting and now I'm in the heart of the downtown east side, fighting for my stolen bike!"

A few minutes later this guy returned to me. He told me we need to keep walking. He said he knows where it was but he wanted my money. I told him I need to go to an ATM and get the money but I wouldn't give him anything until I saw my bike.

We walked over to 7-11 and I withdrew $40 from my bank account. The guy waited outside.

We hurried back to Hastings where we walked over to a Butcher shop. The guy told me to wait inside while he went and found his people. So there I was, in the Butcher shop, trying to act natural while staring at ground beef and pork tenderloin on display. My heart was racing, I was close.

10 minutes passed and finally the guy peeked his head in the door and motioned me out.

"I have the bike, now give me the money, give me the money."

I refused until he showed me the bike. We ran across some busy traffic on Hastings and arrived in front of a bank. Inside the vestibule, behind the caged security gate was... MY BIKE!!!! I couldn't believe my eyes. The guy was on me about the money while I inspected the bike to make sure it was mine. It was mine alright, but the bike lock was missing. I told him of this and he gave me a number to reach him on; he may be able to get it. I told him I'll give him a call as I handed him the $40. He vanished into the busy street while I was left completely floored that I was reunited with my bike.

I got on it and rode down Hastings. I wondered who rode this bike last. I passed a couple of street cops and I felt obliged to tell them of my tale of woe. They raised a few eye brows at me as I explained to them that this was the ONLY way I could've ever gotten this bike back. They were impressed with my hard work but I decided to leave them before they realized I was being a jerk and arrest me.

I rode home with the wind in my hair and a feeling of total elation. Too bad I still had work to do for that TV commercial when I got home; I felt totally exhausted and ready for a beer!

When I arrived home, I tried the number that guy gave me, I wanted my bike lock back! Nobody answered the number, not sure if that was a pay phone or what. Oh well, I got my bike back and had a great story to tell, not to mention, my sister wouldn't have to kill me now that I'd be able to give her $1000 road bike back.

---

Bill's account is courageous and we commend him for having the guts to try to find his bike.  Most people are not so lucky.  If you would like to congratulate Bill, please get in touch with us

We hope we can bring you many more stories like this, so if you have any good adventure stories to share please let us know!

 


Crumpler Laptop Messenger Bag - giveaway 4 - Best anti-theft security measure available

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Personal anti-bike theft systemOK.  So everyone is paranoid about bike theft.  But some people (like whoever owns the bike in the photo) have taken matters into their own hands...

We'd like to see what you have seen in your journeys online and offline for our next Crumpler laptop messenger bag giveaway.

Share your favorite bicycle theft deterrent system (story, photo, video, whatever) on our facebook timeline.  The best one (as measured by "likes") wins a brand new Crumpler laptop messenger bag. Contest starts today, and as before, ends on Sunday night (May 27, 2012)

These bags - btw - are really quite awesome.  I put one on during a video shoot last weekend, and basically have not taken it off since!  

By the way, if you love our project and what we're trying to do, please consider a small contribution on our IndieGoGo crowdfunding page.  Your contribution will help bring our show to life and will help make a difference in the fight against bike theft!

 

Excited to see all your anti-theft bicycle security measures.  Post your best ideas.  Win a bag.  Do it now!!

Igor Kenk - the world's most prolific Bike Thief

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Kenk book giveawayNothing is more heartbreaking than having your bike stolen.

Unless you find your bike in a pawn shop and you can't "prove" it's yours...  For years, Igor Kenk was regarded as the world's most prolific bike thief, and given the nearly 3000 stolen bikes police found when they raided his facilities, that title may still hold.

Alex Jansen, David Gilmore and Richard Poplak have created a visually stunning and massively compelling graphic novel about Igor Kenk and his life in Toronto, Ontario. The book, Kenk: A Graphic Portrait met critical acclaim and offers a very real perspective about the role of Igor Kenk and others like him as players in a significant yet somehow under-reported symptom of our socio-economic divide.

Alex Jansen has generously donated 5 copies of his book to fans of To Catch a Bike Thief, and we'd like to give them away to people that have been affected by Igor Kenk and other's like him.  

From today until the end of the day on Sunday, May 20, post a story about finding your stolen bike at a pawn shop or on Craigslist/Ebay on our facebook timeline.  Best story (as measured by most "likes") will win a signed copy of Kenk: A Graphic Portrait.

 

Thanks for being such excellent fans, and GOOD LUCK!

 

The Bait Bike

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Ever wondered how to get your bike back after it's been stolen?

With excitement building for the release of Season 1 of To Catch a Bike Thief, a lot of people have been curious about the technology we've used and how it is integrated into our show.  Here is a short video of Ryan Whyte showing off our first Bait Bike and how we use it in the show.

We realize - of course - that bike thieves might be watching and recognize the bike on the street.  While that might be bad for the show, it would prove that GPS tracking of bikes can act as a deterrent toward bicycle theft, and should be considered as a tool to help prevent theft.

One of our goals for To Catch a Bike Thief is to be able to demonstrate how new technologies, and social media tools can help cyclists and their communities protect themselves against bicycle theft.  So we're working with inventors, programmers and tech enthusiasts to help us come up with cool and innovative ways to use technology to help stop bike theft.

 

Do you have any unusual and/or fun ideas for ways that technology could be used to deter or protect against bike theft?

 

 

 

 

 


Crumpler Laptop Messenger Bag Giveaway #3 - Tell us a story

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

tell us a story, win this bagYup - that's all there is to it - From right now until midnight on Sunday (12:00AM, May 21), tell us your bike theft story.    Best story (as measured by number of "likes") WINS a Crumpler laptop messenger bag worth $129.  Post the story on our Facebook timeline and get your friends to "like" it!

Here are some story ideas:  

  • A time when someone stole your bike
  • A time when you got your stolen bike back
  • An idea you have for fighting bike theft
  • A time when you stole a bike or bought a stolen bike (we know you're not an evil person - it's ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from them)

Be as descriptive as you can (who knows, someone might actually have seen your stolen bike...)

 

So think about it, and post your story right NOW - contest closes at midnight on Sunday, May 20 (12:00AM, May 21, 2012). If you win, we'll get in touch with you to find out where to send your bag!  

 

Get your friends to vote, it's fun.  DO IT NOW! 

As always, if you have any questions, don't be afraid to get in touch with us!

 

Good Luck!

Crumpler Laptop Messenger Bag Giveaway #2 - Tell us a story

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Crumpler messenger bag giveawayYup - that's all there is to it - From right now until midnight tonight (12:00AM, May 21), tell us your bike theft story.    Best story (as measured by number of "likes") WINS a Crumpler laptop messenger bag worth $129.  Post the story on our Facebook timeline and get your friends to "like" it!

Here are some story ideas:  

  • A time when someone stole your bike
  • A time when you got your stolen bike back
  • An idea you have for fighting bike theft
  • A time when you stole a bike or bought a stolen bike (we know you're not an evil person - it's ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from them)

Be as descriptive as you can (who knows, someone might actually have seen your stolen bike...)

 

So think about it, and post your story right NOW - contest closes at midnight TONIGHT (12:00AM, May 21, 2012). If you win, we'll get in touch with you to find out where to send your bag!  

 

Get your friends to vote, it's fun.  DO IT NOW! 

As always, if you have any questions, don't be afraid to get in touch with us!

 

Good Luck!

 

 


How will To Catch a Bike Thief reduce Bike Theft?

Monday, May 14th, 2012

If 2.5 bicycles are stolen every minute, then cyclists are spending millions of dollars every year to replace them. 

How will To Catch a Bike Thief fight bike theft?

We'd like to think that bike thieves, wary about becoming internet-famous when a camera crew descends upon them with a stolen bicycle would stop them from stealing bikes, but we are not so naive. This is because the bike theft problem goes much deeper than good guys vs bad.

Even if we stopped every single bike thief today, someone else will start stealing Bike Thiefbikes tomorrow. This is because

So the problem isn't bike thieves - it's bike theft!  Therefore, To Catch a Bike Thief will need to promote change in other ways.  

We think that a well produced web series about stopping bike thieves will promote discussion about the bike theft problem. We hope that our fact-driven approach will dispell some of the rumors and urban myths about bike thieves and bike theft. And by showing what works and what doesn't will hopefully make it tougher for thieves to steal your bike.

How can you help us?

Let us fight the problem together.  It's hard enough commuting without getting killed on the roads - who wants to worry about whether their bike will still be there when it's time to go home?  Spread the word, share our website, retweet our stuff, and perhaps most importantly right now - make a small contribution to help us produce our web series!  

 

How do YOU see us in the fight against bike theft?

 


Crumpler Laptop Messenger Bag Giveaway

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Crumpler Messenger laptop bagOK, here's the deal:  We've received crazy support for To Catch a Bike Thief from Crumpler Canada in the form of several AWESOME messenger bags.  But what we really need right now is your help fundraising.  

So we've devised a little contest:  
In the next 48 hours, share the link (http://www.indiegogo.com/To-Catch-a-Bike-Thief) for our crowd funding campaign on your Facebook timeline or by e-mail urging your friends to contribute to our cause.  Whoever refers the most number of friends to contribute to our IndieGoGo campaign online will win this bag.  Contest winner to be announced on Monday, May 14!

That's it!  Just a few notes - individual donations from your friends must be greater than $5 each for it to count.  Also, you'll have to "tag" our show (@to catch a bike thief) in your status update so we can track how many of your friends visited our IndieGoGo page and contributed.

Any questions, just get in touch with us!  

 

Good Luck!

 

 


5 AWESOME ways to help us fight bike theft on a budget

Monday, May 7th, 2012

We need money.

yep, if you've been following our story for a while, you'll know that we're in the throws of an ambitious crowd-funding campaign.  We're raising money to shoot season 1 of the To Catch a Bike Thief web series.  We've had a lot of success getting people to contribute to our cause, and we've got 25 days left to bring it home.  If you love us, hate bike theft, but have no money to give here are 5 easy and awesome ways you can help us out!

  1. Facebook - click here for a high resolution

    TCBT Call out version of the image you see to the right.  Post this picture on your timeline and ask your friends to check us out on Facebook (www.facebook.com/tocatchabikethief).  Don't forget to like us too!

  2. Twitter - tell your followers to check us out.  here's a pre-packaged tweet:  "123,000 bicycles stolen per month in the US and Canada. Outraged? help fight bike theft - support To Catch a Bike Thief http://ow.ly/aKFk8"

  3. Blog it - Got a blog?  follow a blog?  consider writing about us and our crowd funding campaign.  Feel free to get in touch with us for a comment specific to you and your blog!

  4. Tell your friends - the old fashioned way.  you know, with words that you say with your mouth.  It feels weird I know, but try it some time.  You'll get used to it!  

  5. Contribute a dollar - Really?  just one dollar?  yes - because the more funders we receive, the more our profile on IndieGoGo will go up.  When that happens, it boosts our visibility on the site, and they actually start promoting our project!  Literally have no money?  try this - step 1: check inside your couch.  step 2: contribute whatever you find there to our crowd funding campaign - http://www.indiegogo.com/To-Catch-a-Bike-Thief  

 

If you've ever had a bike stolen, you know how much it sucks.  Bike theft is everyone's problem.  Please don't stand by and let it happen.  Help fight bike theft - support To Catch a Bike Thief today!

 

 


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