Vigilante Blogging 

Buying stolen bikes is bad, mkay

Friday, May 4th, 2012

If I steal your bike, I ruin your day.  

Mr MackeyIf you buy a stolen bike to replace the one I stole, you magnify the problem by supporting the entire economy that makes bike theft possible.  By buying a stolen bicycle, you're telling bike thieves that there's money to be made stealing bikes so they will keep doing it to other people.  So you will effectively ruin everybody's day!

Now you might say, "well, the bike's already been stolen.  If I don't buy it, someone else will".  I suppose that's true, but does that make buying the stolen bike the correct thing to do?  Some people steal bikes because many other doors have been closed to them.  Others steal bikes because they're young and stupid!  In either case, you can bet that the overall problem would decrease if people stopped buying stolen bikes. 

So the next question is:  How can I tell if a bike is stolen?  Well, there are high tech methods - last week on Facebook I posted John Taranu's creation: - a website where you can punch in a bike's serial number and the web app will instantly scour police databases to determine whether the bike has ever been reported stolen.  It's only a web app for the time being, which is less useful if you're about to buy a used bike.  

When you need to trust your gut, Alex Skazat suggests trying asking the following questions:

1. Where did you get it?
2. How much did it cost?
3. How long have you had it?
4. Why are you getting rid of it?

Good answers for #1: name of bike store, second-hand from craigslist/a friend.
Good answers for #2: an actual number.
Good answers for #3: an actual length of time.
Good answers for #4: moving to different city, hate biking, upgrading to new bike.

Bad answers for #1: "bike store" or "a friend gave it to me"
Bad answers for #2: "it was expensive!"
Bad answers for #3: "a long time, I don't really remember"
Bad answers for #4: "just don't want it any more"


Do you have any great suggestions for disrupting the supply and demand of stolen bikes?

Bike Theft 101: learning to think like a bike thief

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Ever wanted to steal a bike, but didn't because - well, you know - stealing is wrong?

Well 24 lucky guests at our recent launch parties got to try it out without having to go to jail! Bike Guard was kind enough to donate a couple dozen of their top-end King Pin locks and Norco was good enough to provide a couple bikes to give to the "bike thief" that could defeat a lock in the least amount of time.  We did this to show people how using a good lock can do a lot to prevent bike theft.  In the end, not a single person at either launch parties was able to cut through the lock in the 5 minutes given, and we had to just give the bikes away by draw!!!  

We put together a little video of the festivities as thanks to all of our incredible guests and sponsors.  


If you like our project and would like to help us fight bike theft, please consider making a small contribution to our cause.  




To Catch a Bike Thief Launch Party

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

to catch a bike thief contestPlease come celebrate the release of our pilot episode at our upcoming Vancouver and Toronto launch parties!  The event will also mark the start of our Crowd Funding campaign to raise $20,000 to produce season 1 of To Catch a Bike Thief!

We've got lots of fun stuff planned:

  • Meet the creators of To Catch a Bike Thief (7 to 8:15PM)
  • Bike Theft Competition:  Defeat the U-lock in less than 2 minutes (bring your own tools) for a chance to win a new bike! (8:15 to 9:15PM) (Contest rules here)
  • Pilot Episode Screening (9:15PM)
  • Q&A session with Series Producer (Toronto event) and Director (Vancouver Event) (9:15 to 10PM)
  • Live video blogging - tell us your bike theft story for a chance to be featured in an upcoming episode (All night long)


TORONTO Party Details here

VANCOUVER Party Details here


We'd love for you to help support our project with a small pledge or donation at the event, but more importantly, enjoy yourself and good luck in the bike theft competition!

Need a new bike? Come steal one at our Launch Party

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

Have you ever wanted to know how easy it was to steal a bike?  Find out at our launch party!

Here are the RULES:

  1. RSVP for our launch party
  2. Bring your own tools.  We'll have some here though just in case.  No power tools or plasma cutters please.
  3. Make a pledge or donation to our project ($20 recommended)
  4. Get a numbered ticket (one per person)
  5. At 8:15PM, if we call out your number, be get ready - you'll have 2 minutes to attempt to defeat a Bike Guard U-Lock
  6. Be the fastest to get through the lock and remove the bicycle (without damaging it) and it's yours to keep!  That's it!

Note, if you participate in this contest, your attempt may be featured in one of our upcoming web videos.  Also, from now on, if one of your friends' bikes goes missing, they will probably think you did it!





What kind of bike thief are you?

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

In making To Catch a Bike Thief, we've learned that there are exactly 3 kinds of bike thieves, and depending on where you live, you're likely to encounter one type of bike thief more often than the others.

Bike Thief species can be listed as follows:

1) Opportunists

2) Salesmen

3) Commissioned Salesmen

cable lock
The Opportunistic bike thief is a casual deviant that steals bikes or parts that are easy to steal, not properlylocked or are in a very low risk area.  He may never have stolen a bicycle before, and definitely didn't set out with a plan to steal your bike, but saw it unlocked on his way home from the bar and grabbed the opportunity. Best defence: Any old lock will do.

The bike thief that intends to steal your bike to exchange it for goods or money.  She does not yet know whocable and ulock
her buyer is, but she knows that for the right price, someone will take it off her hands.  Chances are, she was out looking for a bike to steal, and found the security system protecting yours to be easy to break given the tools she had and the knowledge she's developed.  Best defence:  Use two different kinds of locks.

Commissioned Salesmen
These are the bogeymen that you should be afraid of.  Commissioned Salesmen may have an employer thatinsurance
gives specific instructions for a certain type of bike to be stolen - think organized crime.  Other bike thieves won't steal your bike if it's too difficult or if there's too high a chance they might get caught.  But Commissioned Salesmen may just figure out where you live and then they'll come and take it from you when you least suspect it!  Best defence: Get theft insurance, keep bike locked indoors with two kinds of locks at all times. If you really want to fight back, put a GPS tracker on your bicycle so you can track down your bike if it disappears.

Why does the type of thief matter? 

we want to learn about exactly who we're dealing with. With that information in hand, we can help you - the bike community - protect yourself against the specific type of bike thief working in your area


Do you know what type of bike thieves have been wreaking havoc in your neighborhood?













Bicycle Vigilantes?

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

To Catch a Bike Thief Bicycle Vigilante117. That's the number of bikes Vancouver Police Department spokesperson Lindsey Houghton said had been reported stolen so far in 2012.  

That was on Feb. 15. If we take the city of Vancouver to be representative  of North America in terms of overall theft reports, 117 bike thefts in a population of just over 600,000 means that in the United States and Canada, 68,250 bicycles would have been reported stolen in less than 2 months!  

With these staggering numbers it's amazing that bike theft doesn't get the coverage that it deserves by the police and the news. But To Catch a Bike Thief is helping to start the conversation: after seeing our trailer, journalist John Daly faced off with the VPD at their daily press conference and brought discussion about bike theft to the local evening news

As a group of rag-tag cyclists with video cameras and GPS-tracked bait bikes, we've been labelled as vigilantes. In the truest sense of the word, vigilantes take matters of law enforcement into their own hands. But rather than making arrests and locking thieves up, the goal at To Catch a Bike Thief is to use technology to bring the bike theft problem into the general conversation to encourage more action to be taken by law enforcement, policy makers and ordinary citizens.

If that's our measure of vigilante-ism, how are we doing as vigilantes?  Getting the police to discuss statistics on bike crime 45 days into the calendar year seems like a step in the right direction, but we are only just beginning.

What approaches would you like to see us use to take on the bike theft problem? 



Image Credit:




How To Catch a Bike Thief started

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

People often ask us how we got the idea to start To Catch a Bike Thief.  The truth is that we went out and got ideas from cyclists like you, built a team of people that wanted to help fight bike theft and make a difference in their communities.  Here's a quick video to show how we started building our team...

Have you had any interesting experiences or great ideas about bike theft lately?  Write to us, we'd love to hear about them and if you want, we'll share them with our friends on!

5 things you should do right away if your bike is stolen

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Your bike just got stolen.  Now What?

Relax.  Take a deep breath.  Here are 5 things you can do right away that will improve your odds of getting it back.

Step 1: Survey the area - did anyone see what happened?  Doesn't hurt to ask around.

Step 2: Post your bike and description to or Bike Shepherd. This way, anyone in your geographical area that is also a part of this community can help keep their eyes out for it

Step 3: Scan Craigslist for a bike matching your description.  You can subscribe to an RSS feed on craigslist that will alert you the moment someone posts a bicycle matching your description

Step 4: Check the pawn shops.  

Step 5: Report the bike stolen to your local police department.  You'll need your serial number and a description of the bike to get it back.  

What have you done to get your bike back?



Photo stolen from Elizabeth Orrel Photography - check out her blog here

Bike Theft: The reason we can't have nice bikes

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012


everyone hates bike thieves

Take the most mild-mannered liberal arts college educated latte-sipping leftie and ask them about how they feel about the death penalty, abortion and our wars overseas. You’ll get a fairly predictable liberal response. But ask the same person how they feel about bike theft and they would say, "oh, those f--ckers gotta die!" Case in point? Check out some of the comments we’ve gotten on youtube so far.

I think the real reason that To Catch a Bike Thief has gotten as much support as it has so far is that we are tapping into this very deep emotional place that people reserve for the lowest of the low, like oppressive dictators. 

Revenge rage

The vilification of bike thieves is such a bizarre socially acceptable form of hatred. If you switch out the words "bike thief" for another type of crime you’ll notice how shocking it is to listen to people describe the extent to which they would be willing to compromise their values to get “justice,” or more likely, revenge.

But as we embark on our little adventure in To Catch a Bike Thief, let us never forget that the problem isn't bike thieves - it's bicycle theft.  If you think about it, when someone pinches your ride, if a genie in a bottle were to grant you one single wish, it would be have your bike back, not to see the person who stole it publicly executed as some of our YouTube viewers suggest.


We've recently been portrayed in news articles as vigilantes that fight bike thieves.  I think it's probably more accurate to say that the To Catch a Bike Team is a group of cyclists that are pretty serious about combating bike theft but are more interested in a conversation than meting out justice. When we catch our bike thieves, we are not likely to call the cops, press charges or even give them a harsh scolding (“The Canadian Beatdown” that BikeSnobNYC suggested we might administer). We’re just as interested in WHO stole our bike as we are in getting him back. And of course, we’re all about giving you the tools to protect your bike as well.

In the game of bicycle theft, bike thieves have to balance risk and reward.  At To Catch a Bike Thief, our goal is to tip the scales in favour of cyclists so that less bikes go missing. And when they do, to allow cyclists a greater chance of recovering their property in order to disrupt the supply and demand that fuels the economy of bike theft.


How we do it on To Catch a Bike Thief - new animation from Salvador Nunez

Monday, February 6th, 2012

 Lots of you have been asking how we use GPS Bait bikes and an intercept team in our new web series.  Well, we've teamed up with Vancouver Animator, Salvador Nunez to make a nice little infographic to depict the sequence of events from our forthcoming pilot episode.  Stay tuned for more behind the scenes info and release dates for our pilot episode and our crowd sourcing plan for Season 1!

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