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For a while there was a running gag in Toronto that if your bike got stolen you could just go down to certain stores and buy it (or a reasonable fascimile) back on the cheap. The joke was that you didn't really own your bike, you just rented it from the bike thieves. I don't know if that's still true since Igor Kenk got arrested.

I don't suppose that would work for bike helmets though (does anyone really want a "reasonable fascimile" of their helmet?)

In a highly populated (> 10 000 /km²) quarter in Dresden, but during the day not with somebody regularly on the street:
When I park my bike in a room just 2 m around the entrance door, I usually leave my bicycle bag (in heavy use for 8 years, kept dirty enough to show that : - ) in front of it, for about 30 seconds. 2 weeks ago it was already picked by a passer-by (female, around 18, foreign language / accent) and looked through for useable stuff.
What do you do ? Punch her ? Call the police ?


a) Soo, I think you read too much into it. some people are just habitual thieves
b) the "risk" is actually ZERO

Bob, I actually like my helmet, it was the only one, at a reasonable price, which fit m y head.

On the other hand, I left in the last 10 days 5 or 6 times my locked bike with 2 unsecured, filled bike bags on heavily crowded train stations for each time about one hour , unsupervised, but that is hard to verify. Nothing got stolen. If I would have caught a thief in a train station, I would have probably made a little drama

Who steals a helmet??? it is like stealing socks, you just can't clean it enough to make someone want to wear it.

Mike, yes, I feel that way about used helmets, too - though my bike helmet isn't nearly as disgusting as my hockey helmet!

genauer - yup, I think I was overestimating the risk of stealing things - as you say, close to zero - and perhaps underestimating the tendency of some people to take things just for the heck of it.

Bob - yes, Toronto is much worse than Ottawa for bicycle theft, as I've had a chance to learn recently.

In Vancouver, you'll adjust the use value of the helmet upwards, to also include its value as insurance against receiving a $29 fine for riding without one. I understand that these fines get handed out quite frequently.

I think the problem with your math isn't the formula, so much as an overestimation of p(c). I would suggest that p(c) is approximately zero, given law enforcement's general disinterest in bike-related crime, coupled with an unlocked helmet being pretty easy to pick up without even looking suspicious.

"If I would have caught a thief in a train station, I would have probably made a little drama."

A few years ago, out in Vancouver, someone stole my cousin bike. Unfortunately for the thief(but fortunately for my cousin), he had the misfortune of bumping into both my cousin and my brother a few hours later. The confronted him and he was "pursuaded" to return it (basically my brother - the soldier - grabbed the bike and told the thief that if he wanted to press his claim that he owned it, they'd be happy to call the cops. I suppose the thief concluded that possession was nine tenths of the law).

Bob, but even when 2 caught the thief, with a full bike stolen, they didnt report him to the police, right ?

Now, as a question to the full audience, in my case, with nobody else observing, what
would / should have been done ?

a) just get my bag back (as I did)
b) make a photo of her, then follow and call the police, and then, maybe she has a history, would that get her deported, or punished in any way ?
c) if it comes to physical interaction, what is the chance this gets turned around
against me
d) suggestion, what a in generally pretty tolerant, socially responsible, law abiding citizen should do? Did I fail my fellow citizens by letting her get away? Because no doubt, it will encourage her to do it again.

It is a little similar to the question, what to do with Greece now.

Reconcile these two statements. One is by a liberal and the other by a real person.

1) "I can easily afford a new helmet, I don't mind giving my old one to someone who needs it. "

2) "But from now on, I'm locking my helmet up, or taking it with me."

I think you have underestimated the theoretical value of the helmet - it makes stealing a bicyle easier.

Most bicycles without a cyclist are also without a helmet. However, most cyclists have bicycle and helmet. The rarest (in my ad hoc observation) is the cyclist without a helmet - especially when correlated with the value of the bike. Therefore, to minimize the appearance of being a theif, the theif brings a helmet with them when planning to steal a bike.

In Winnipeg it was understood that driving around with just a baseball bat in the trunk meant you were up to no good, but by adding a baseball and a glove the bat was transformed from weapon / house-breaking tool to sports equipment.

(Along similar lines, why are bicycle lights so frequently stolen? I've always thought it was joggers because inevitably the bicyle mount gets snapped rendering it useless for another bike but still useful in mesh pockets.)

CheckPremises - if I *knew* the helmet was being used to keep someone's head safe, that one be one thing, but I don't - as Peter points it, it could be being used to enable bicycle theft.

Peter - excellent observation on making theft easier.

The MEC mounts are actually fairly easy to remove without a screwdriver, but the last person to steal my light didn't even bother to try to remove the mount.

A lot of theft of small items is purely random. I've talked to thieves and heard several rationales:

1) they are teaching a lesson to others.

2) I something is lying around, then it will be stolen by *someone* so it might as well be them. It would be like passing up free stuff. Implicit is that they are restoring order to the world, as something valuable should not be left unattended.

3) The risk of getting caught never enters into the calculation at all for casual thieves. Those walking into clothing stores to steal clothes is a different matter.

One example is a guy who stole a laptop -- macbook pro -- from a coffee shop. When I asked him why he stole it, he said "they shouldn't have left it lying there!"

It's like the old line about robbing banks, because that's where the money is.

rjs - I'm curious how it is you get to talk to so many thieves?

reason -- I spent way too much time hanging around coffee shops. And I live in a city full of thieves. The first time I visited it, my bookbag was stolen, containing about $400 of math text books, in less than 20 seconds. I saw the person who did it. There were two girls walking along the sidewalk, while I was inside ordering my drink. I looked behind me, and saw one of them stoop down a little, and then get back up. The movement was pretty smooth and fast. When I went outside, my bookbag was gone. It wasn't a laptop bag, it was a satchel and clearly only contained books, as it was open. It was naive of me to think I could set some books on a table and go inside to order my coffee.

People see something, they grab it. There is no moment of reflection, or carefully weighing options. The demand to steal is inelastic.

Since then, I've had two laptops stolen, 4 bikes stolen, and multiple mugs. The roof of my convertible was slashed ($3500 replacement cost) and all they got was a thermos. I don't know of anyone that owns a bike that hasn't had a bike stolen at least once. And most of them had it stolen several times. One time, though, they took my neighbor's bike, and left their old bike in its place.

Another time I was standing outside of a coffee shop and left a mug of coffee on the table. A gaggle of girls -- they must have been 14 -- walked between me and the table, and the mug was gone. It wasn't my mug, it belonged to the coffee shop, but I ran after them and after a scuffle, forcibly grabbed the mug out of one of the girl's hands. She was screaming at me. One moment of quiet reflection and the next moment, it's Lord of the Flies.

Another acquaintance of mine basically stole her way through college. She stole everything, clothes, books, and would sell it for pocket money. She just graduated with a PhD, and saw nothing wrong with taking anything that wasn't bolted down. I live in a city filled with thieves, beggars, drug dealers, and pre-pubescent kleptomaniacs. Of course it's Heaven compared to Wall Street.

rsj - then there's the thief who broke into my sister's car and stole her briefcase, which contained nothing but a copy of the Criminal Code of Canada.

"rsj - then there's the thief who broke into my sister's car and stole her briefcase, which contained nothing but a copy of the Criminal Code of Canada."

Smart thief, every sucessful business owner has to know the laws governing their industry.

This is completely off topic in an otherwise interesting discussion, but here goes.

I have become convinced that there is very little evidence that your H:

"the value of the protection offered by a helmet in the event of an accident (H for helmet or health)"

is significantly greater than zero. I am at least convinced that zero is within the range of uncertainty about the value of H. I do wear a helmet when it is convenient, but that is partly because I don't want any doubt as to liability if a car ever hits me, and it makes my wife as well as my mother happy, and it also sends out a signal that I am a responsible member of society.

I have never had a helmet stolen off of a bicycle, but when I have locked it up with my bicycle I have locked it up so that the thief would have to destroy the straps or the helmet to steal it. I have had a bicycle stolen (I live in Toronto), but I have become more careful about locking it up - never overnight, lock in the same price range as bicycle, and riding a bicycle that is unappealing to casual thieves.

Whitfit: "I am at least convinced that zero is within the range of uncertainty about the value of H."

Two factors strongly contribute to H. 1) Respect from vehicles with regards to cyclists and pedestrians, 2) distraction helmet causes to the cyclist.

Speaking from personal experience, the helmet has saved my health at least once and possibly twice. Not because the fall would have immediately killed me but because the fall would have concussed me sufficiently to delay getting out of the road. Without getting into all the details, I fell into the street and bumped my head on the road but presumably maintained enough wits to scramble myself and the bike from the street to over the curb. It was definitely a hard hit because I don't remember much except hitting the back of a truck and then being found by the paramedics in a video rental store trying to get a drink of water.

rsj - I worked at 7-11 on the midnight shift and learnt that everybody is a thief. From that experience, I think socio, economic, and demographic status have very little predictive power and opportunity is far more of a determining factor than anything else.

"Hence no thief would ever want a bicycle helmet. I could safely leave my helmet, unlocked, clipped to my bike.

"A great strength of this theory was that it was falsifiable, it could be proved wrong. Last week it was: my helmet was stolen. What was wrong with my reasoning?"

Maybe the degree of risk for that thief was equal to the risk of leaving a bicycle helmet clipped to a bike but unlocked.

Maybe the thief was an entrepreneur who sold your helmet to another risk averse cyclist.

Maybe the thief was a sociopath, who stole the helmet because he could.

CheckPremises: "Reconcile these two statements. One is by a liberal and the other by a real person.

1) "I can easily afford a new helmet, I don't mind giving my old one to someone who needs it. "

2) "But from now on, I'm locking my helmet up, or taking it with me."

Trust in Allah, but tie your camel. -- Islamic saying. :)

Anecdote about bicycle theft in post-war occupied Japan:

A young American civilian employee of the occupation had his bicycle stolen and reported the theft at the local police station. The police sergeant, who spoke passable English, told him to come back Thursday morning after 9:00 a. m.. When he did, he saw dozens of bicycles underneath a large sign. The sergeant asked him if he saw his bicycle, and he easily found it. He asked the sergeant what the sign said. The sergeant replied, "Bring your bicycle here by 9:00 a. m. Thursday morning. Those who do not will be shot."

> To my mind, that's welfare-improving theft - Robin Hood with bicycles...But from now on, I'm locking my helmet up, or taking it with me.

Do you have regrets of not locking up the helmet before?

Do you want to lock up now because you think the probability of welfare improving thefts relative to the probability of theft is low? Or because you think you've done your fair share and further transfers would harm you more than will help the next user?

Marris - "Do you have regrets of not locking up the helmet before?"

No, I was interested in testing the bicycle-helmets-never-get-stolen hypothesis. But now it's been proved false.

"Do you want to lock up now because you think the probability of welfare improving thefts relative to the probability of theft is low?"

That's it, precisely - pretty much any theft that involved the helmet being used regularly would be welfare improving (I'm more optimistic than whitfit is about the usefulness of bicycle helmets).

Min - great stories.

Reading "Since then, I've had two laptops stolen, 4 bikes stolen, and multiple mugs"
made me physically revolting, an urge to barf.

This is not acceptable. Catch them, deport them, lock them away, whatever.
Maybe public shaming of them and their parents helps.

I walked in the night through Fort Tryon park in Harlem and crowded market places in Cuba

Dan Ariely is writing on bicycle theft today http://danariely.com/2012/06/14/a-year-in-the-life-of-a-city-bike/

as a subscriber to Dan Ariely, I was actually curious, how long it would take that this pops up here at wci. 1:01 pm at Dan, 7:37 am your time here, with 6 hours time shift, makes just 27 min from the post there to the reference here : - )

I think the point missing there is, that a bike, obviously unused for many days is abuse of public space, in an expensive location. West village is like 5000 $/sqm or? With a “natural rate” (of interest) of , lets say 5%, it is a rent value of 5000 *0.05 / 12 = 20$/month for the privilege to park your bike there. For a bike, I would value about 200 $, roughly, based on the photo, the owner has already used all the value on “Day 212”. And she should be fined for not removing her garbage from a very valuable public space after that.

In my place, with the bike room directly at the entrance, the 2 doors actually interfere with each other, we have a purge, every 2 or 3 years. 4-6 weeks announcement, 4-6 weeks holding period after that, and then it is gone. People can “store” their unused property in their private storage room. The active area is for people actively using their bike.

Now I am curious for comments.

Frances, you seem to have left sheer vandalism out of the picture. I once locked my helmet to my bike in Toronto, and somebody tore the visor off the helmet. No economic value whatsoever. Your helmet might have been stolen just for the hell of it!

Gregory: "sheer vandalism." I know, I'm naive.

I talked to someone who knows the neighbourhood where the helmet was stolen fairly well, and she figured it's one of the few areas in Ottawa where there are both people who would like to have a bicycle helmet and people who lack the means to buy their own helmet. I hope this is the case!

Speaking of thieves & economics:

Economists demonstrate exactly why bank robbery is a bad idea
The typical return on a bank holdup is, "frankly, rubbish."

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