Tag Archive: bike thieves

A new web series: “To Catch a Bike Thief”

Ingo Lou, producer for an upcoming web series entitled “To Catch a Bike Thief”, dropped us a press release about the project. This ties in nicely with our recent coverage of Outside Magazine‘s great article “Who Pinched My Ride?”, where the author used GPS tracking devices to follow stolen bikes.

Here’s the press release:

Contact: Ingo Lou
Mobile: (604) 889-1096
Twitter: @tocatchabikethf


Cyclists are angry at rates of bicycle theft and want more to be done to stop it. Roughly 2.5 bicycles are stolen every minute, and even when bike theft is reported to police, victims stand a less-than-one-per-cent chance of actually recovering their bike, according to the Centre for Problem-Oriented Policing in a report prepared for the US Department of Justice.

This has inspired a group of Vancouver cyclists to create a web series, aptly called “To Catch a Bike Thief,” to chronicle their adventures as they attempt to recover GPS-tracked bait bikes they constructed themselves.

The web series is intended to raise awareness about bike theft, promote discussion, and explore ways that individuals and communities can protect themselves against theft.

“I’m constantly surprised at the level of support and encouragement we receive from everyone in the cycling community for our project,” said Broderick Albright, one of the first members of the To Catch a Bike Thief team.

Broderick and the rest of their team began experimenting with GPS tracking technologies for bicycles in early 2011 and constructed their first bait bike in June 2011. During the summer, production of the series began when the group tested their DIY bait bike, keeping it on a short leash at first. They ran round-the-clock stakeouts, waiting for a thief to cut the lock so the To Catch a Bike Thief intercept team could hop onto their bikes and chase the stolen bait bike.

The GPS tracker in the bait bike (purchased online from a website specializing in equipment to help catch cheating spouses!) has a vibration sensor that activates the tracker once the lock is cut. The tracker then broadcasts its real-time location every 10 seconds to a mapping server accessed through a web-application. In To Catch a Bike Thief, the team designated a “dispatcher” to coordinate with the intercept team in the field via two-way radios.

“GPS tracking gives our intercept team dispatch real-time response of the bait bike, and allows our team to develop a proper intercept strategy that is both safe and effective,” said Ingo Lou, producer of To Catch a Bike Thief. “We want to make sure we have all the information we need before we go and intercept our bait bike after it’s been stolen.”

The To Catch a Bike Thief team hired security guards on bicycles to be on hand when confronting bike thieves. The security detail isn’t there to make arrests, but to observe, report and deter any potential violent behavior to protect the intercept team.

Series director, Kirsten Aubrey envisions a web series in which the full picture of bicycle theft can be thoroughly explored by a combination of GPS tracking, rigorous research and good old-fashioned documentary-style filming. “I want to understand the big picture of bike theft, in order to help cyclists protect their bikes.”

To Catch a Bike Thief is produced in Vancouver, B.C., and the trailer for Season 1 was released on February 2, 2012. The pilot episode is planned to release in spring 2012.


If you’d like more information about To Catch a Bike Thief or to schedule an interview with a team member, please contact Ingo Lou at (604) 351-5077 or via e-mail at


To tantalize you, here’s the trailer for the series:

(Properly) Lock your bike.

A while ago, our own staff writer Elizabeth shared this video on Facebook. It’s a good primer for learning how to lock your bike up, and Hal has a great personality. He’s really looking for just a few things: Your wheels and saddle should be well-secured, and the frame itself should be securely held to a large stationary object with a heavy-duty U-lock or chain. He has some other tips, too. Watch this:

I do risk analysis and other security-type stuff for a living. In the suburbs, some of this stuff can be a bit overkill. San Francisco, LA, Detroit, Chicago and NYC have some pretty mean streets where the traditional axiom is that it’s not a question of if you will have a bike or parts stolen, it’s when it’ll happen. Bicycles are a commodity on the street. Pretty much any working bike can be traded for $25-$50 worth of… *ahem* “goods” and “services” on the black market. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bike-shaped-object from the department store or a high-quality cyclocross bike with fenders, racks and lights. That being said, knowledgeable thieves are willing to put a lot more effort, risk and planning into really nice bicycles that can be parted out or sold to a fence for a bigger payday.

Hal’s comment on quiet streets generally holds merit. Thieves prefer to hide in plain sight, and chaos is king. They can thrive on predictable activity as well if they’re sure they have plenty of time to work on your bike without being noticed. Make sure your parking spot isn’t too far out of the way.

Cable locks are okay for holding your wheels or saddle together, or for quick in-and-out errands, but totally useless if you will be leaving your bike unattended for more than a few minutes at a time. Hal said that you can’t steal a bike when the owner’s right there watching it, so being able to wheel your bike right into your office is the best policy, but a lot of us don’t have that luxury. I bought a length of heavy-duty towing chain that required a 36″ bolt cutter at the hardware store to chop it from the spool, then passed it through an old mountain bike inner tube so it doesn’t scratch up my frame. It’s probably 10 pounds worth of chain, so I leave it at work, and I lock it with a quality lock that has a shrouded, shim-proof hasp. It’s long enough to pass through both wheels, the frame, and a bike rack.

Security is hard, though, and thieves’ motives are hard to predict. It’s true that security devices only buy you time. I’ve experimented with almost every kind of bicycle lock imaginable, and all of them can be broken in just a few minutes by someone who has been casing your bike. Usually, thieves are looking for something easy to steal so they can sell it or trade it quickly to get what they really want. If your bike is more secure than the bikes around it, you’re probably safe. If someone really wants your bike specifically, it’s pretty hard to keep it safe. Maybe it’s the only bike around. Maybe it’s the nicest one on the block. Maybe they want the challenge, or maybe they’re your evil twin whose mission in life is to foil your bicycle commuting adventures.

Regardless, if you ever thought that no one would want your bicycle, or that you could leave it unlocked and unattended for just a bit, you’re probably wrong.

Editor’s note: we have a couple of other security strategy articles that may be of interest to you. The first covers lock considerations — the real gold is in the comments area. Take a look at it by clicking here. Also, thanks go out to dedicated reader/curmudgeon Raiyn for reminding me of this article in the comments area below.

The other article covers wheel security and retention strategies…wheels can be incredibly easy to steal and the loss of just one wheel will, of course, leave you stranded. Check out that article here.