Bicycle Thefts in the City of El Segundo

Since its introduction in the early 19th century, bicycles now number about one billion worldwide, twice as many as automobiles.  The bicycle since then has been constantly used as an alternative mode of transportation, for recreation, sports, adventure, and companionship. In the United States, between 1992 and 2006, bicycle sales have increased from 15.3 million to 18.2 million per year (an increase of roughly 20).  These changes in bicycle usage and provision have been influenced by
increased awareness of the detrimental effect of automobile carbon dioxide emissions, and pursuit of air quality and emission reduction targets
concerns over growing traffic congestion and accompanying noise pollution
rising levels (and fear) of obesity and heart disease
recognition that most trips are relatively short, or bike-sized
savings in road maintenance and improvement of street infrastructure and
responses to policies such as traffic congestion charging.

However, even the bicycle is not spared from the clutches of criminal activity.
Efforts to collect data on bicycle theft are hampered as police data underrepresented the problem.  In 2006, The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) reported an estimated 1.3 million incidents of theft-from or theft-of bicycles, compared to the 2005 data indication 250,000 bikes stolen each year.  Some reports attribute this problem due to the victims belief that the police are not interested in bicycle theft and cannot do anything about it, in terms of catching the offender and returning the stolen bicycle.
The disinterest among victims of bike theft is thoroughly supported by numbers.  In a study conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory, 17 of cyclists experience bicycle theft.  Of these, 24 subsequently give up cycling and 66 cycle less often as a result.  In 1993, over 5,500,000 bicycles were reported stolen annually.  Apparently, the problem of bicycle theft must be addressed if such mode of transportation is to be considered as a viable and healthy alternative to motorized transport.  

Program Outline
This crime prevention program focuses on preventing bicycle thefts.  Bicycles are without a doubt a tremendous benefit not only as a mode of transport, but as a means of recreation, sports, and as a symbol of environmental awareness today.  However, bicycle thefts are also prevalent, and police data on occurrences of bicycle thefts are underrepresented.  Furthermore, disinterest from victims of bicycle thefts hamper police efforts because of the victims belief that the police are not interested and cannot do anything about it, in terms of arresting the offender and recovering their bicycle.

This program also explores the importance of studying the social aspects of crimes in order to reduce and prevent it.  The two traditional models, deterrencepunishment and treatmentrehabilitation, are considered a failure and a more effective model of crime prevention must be introduced.  The federal government introduced a system of crime prevention that incorporates local community members to fight crime, thereby involving the participation of private sectors.  This model is now generally accepted not only throughout the country, but throughout the world as well.  There is also a need to revolutionize product design as a counter-measure against bicycle theft.  This contention is based on the principle that certain objects, including the bicycle, become targets of criminal activity because of the presence of certain properties that attracts attention from potential offenders.

This program seeks to understand and identify the factors that contribute to bicycle theft.  This can be determined using the Five Ws of information-gathering and investigation---WhatWho, Where, When, How, and Why.  This is, however, limited to data provided by the El Segundo Police Department.

Finally, the program seeks to suggest responses on which occurrences of bicycle can be averted and to restore confidence among cyclists.  The responses may involve local and national governments in its implementation.  However, the emphasis is on both prevention of bicycle thefts and helping community members solve the theft problem, in close coordination with administrative agencies, the police, and some groups in the private sector

Issues of Concern
Community involvement in crime prevention has been undergoing a trial-and-error of sorts for the last 50 years.  Jefferson, in his book, Crime Prevention through Environmental Design, noted that traditional models of crime control namely, retributiondeterrence and treatmentrehabilitation, have been costly failures financially and in terms of human dignity.

In the 1960s, the Kennedy Administration introduced a social program called Mobilization for Youth to provide the youth more opportunities through empowering disadvantaged groups to challenge the unjust distribution of resources in their communities.  Adam Crawford, in explaining its failure, suggested it sparked what is known as  a crisis of legitimacy among government agencies, whereby social service programs and criminal justice agencies were perceived as out-of-touch with the preferences of those they served and incapable of affecting social structure.  It led to a rethinking in criminology where social structure must be given emphasis.  Community defense activities were created to allow fearful and punitive citizens to protect themselves and their property against opportunistic offenders and to fight back though such actions as citizen patrols and property marking.  After a series of successes in the 1970s, the federal government expanded such programs by developing standards for citizen involvement set forth by the U.S. National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards in 1973, and by sponsoring training for community organizations and law enforcement agencies interested in launching such programs.   In 2002 United Nations adopted guidelines which laid down the principles of community crime prevention among Municipal Governments.

Crime Reduction through Product Design (CRPD) is also one of the effective means in preventing products from becoming targets of crime.   It is based on the principle that some items are attractive as targets of theft because they are Concealable, Removable, Available, Valuable, Enjoyable, and Disposable, hence the acronym CRAVED.  In an article by Andrew Lester, CRPD is instrumental in either preventing offenses or facilitating an effective and efficient response following an offense.

Category of Offenders
Not all bicycles are stolen for financial gain. Some offenders may take a bicycle simply to get from one place to another, and then abandon it. Research suggests that bicycle thieves can be categorized in the following way in terms of their motivation
Joyriders-those who steal any type of bicycle for transportation andor enjoyment. These offenders generally abandon the stolen bicycle after use. Younger offenders (16 and under) typically fit this group.

Acquisitive-those who exploit easy opportunities to steal any type of bicycle and trade it for cash or goods (such as drugs).

Volume-those who steal specific types of bicycles andor numerous bicycles to order
Police Profile of El Segundo

Figure 1. Map of the City of El Segundo.
The City of El Segundo is approximately 5.4 square miles with a population of approximately 16,900 people. The daytime population is approximately 100,000 people, due to large industry and a large commercial population.  The criminal aspect of the city ranges from predominately property crimes, to crimes against persons. The city is largely a non-violent bedroom community, however the city does experience occasional crimes against persons such as simple batteries, etc.
The El Segundo Police Department has sixty-nine sworn officers ranging from the Chief of Police, Captains, Lieutenants, Sergeants, Detectives, and Patrol. The police department currently has only a Microsoft Excel organizational matrix and to make a more efficient system, a new unofficial and unapproved chart is being created.
Understanding the Problem
This writer will identify the roots of bicycle thefts in El Segundo based on police data obtained.  Using the Five Ws method in information gathering ---What, When, Where, How, and Why--- the results, based on the police record are as follows

WhatWho - Suspects are generally unknown, and the record does not indicate probable culprits within the area of theft.  Stolen bicycles range from mountain bikes, touring bikes to BMX bikes, however Beach Cruiser types are commonly mentioned.  Victims targeted are ones whose houses commonly have front porches, carportsgarages, apartments, bicycle racks or locations within said areas.  Some of the victims also own vehicles (See Table 1).

Where - Occurrences of bicycle thefts are scattered throughout El Segundo City, with areas in East Grand Avenue, East Mariposa Avenue, East Acacia Avenue, West Mariposa Avenue, and North Continental Avenue experiencing more that one occasions of theft.  Thefts commonly take place in residences, separate garages, vehicles, bicycle racks, and apartments (See Table 2).
When  Results of tabulation (see Table 1.1) show occurrences of bicycle thefts peak during the summer and is gradually reduced during the transition towards winter.  Months such as July, August, September, and October show a high frequency of bicycle theft cases.  On a Week basis, only 1 case of bicycle theft occurred during Sunday, but thefts gradually increase until it peaks on Fridays (see Table 1.1).    
How - Common methods of committing bicycle theft are lifting, levering, striking, cutting, unbolting, and picking.  The record shows signs of lifting, cutting and lock defeats. Bicycles are commonly left unattended in residential facilities, carportsgaragesshared entrances, car parks, on-street, parked bicycles, and automobile racks.

Why - It is not immediately known why the victims bicycles are stolen.  However, the records show that more that half of the bicycles stolen are left unsecured.  Bicycles can be easily dismantled and sold for sale, or in exchange for goods.  The principle of CRAVE applies to bicycles as well (see page 4).  

 Responses to Bicycle Thefts
Counter-measures against occurrences of bicycle theft are broad in scope, if administrative and community action is to be taken into consideration.  This writer believes the following are viable measures for prevention of bicycle thefts in El Segundo

Stronger Locks
Figure 2 to 2.1. Kryptonite locks.
It is important for ensure that bicycle users are aware of the levels of security offered by the lock they use.  Websites such as can be helpful as a source of advice as to security of locks. Examples of stronger anti-theft locking devices are the U-shaped Kryptonite locking device.

Community-Wide Bicycle Campaigns
Figure 3 to 3.1. Bicycle campaigns in other countries.
A community information drive supported by various government agencies is also effective as it can ignite awareness of bicycle safety and security.  With police participation, cyclists will have an opportunity to learn more on how to secure their bicycles, where to park, information on bicycle anti-theft devices, and what to do in case of theft.  If provided, this will also create an opportunity to encourage cyclists to register their bicycles and provoke discussions and information sharing on how bicycle theft can be averted.

Bike Lanes
Figure 4. Bicycle lanes          
Figure 4.1 Bicycle lanes in New York
Having well-lighted and clearly-delineated bicycles drive lanes can be helpful to cyclists as it reduces the opportunity for potential theft.  Users of these lanes will also be protected from possible automobile accidents and injury.  Although this is primarily a government action based on the needs of the community, bicycle lanes can raise awareness of the economic, environmental, and health benefits of the bicycle.  

Integration of GPS units on Bicycles
Figure 5 to 5.1. GPS Bicycle units
GPS (Global Positioning System) units have been used by cyclists in cross-country sporting events and for leisure purposes.  GPS uses a collection of satellites, owned by the US government, to provide highly accurate, positioning and navigation information by constantly transmitting the satellites precise time and position in space. A GPS unit installed on a bicycle will enable cyclists to track the location of their bicycles in case of theft.  Prices of GPS units may range from 300-500 per unit.  Despite the stiff price tag, it is clearly an effective means of averting the loss of an individuals bicycle.

Reduce Flyparking
Figure 5. Flyparking in England                    
Figure 5.1. Bicycle parking on a stand post.Flyparking (e.g. locking of cycles to trees or street furniture not designed for this purpose) is common and is shown to contribute to cycle theft.  This can either be a government effort to improve and increase parking facilities or for the community to create awareness of the negative effects of flyparking.

Anti-Theft Bicycle Stands
Figure 6. Anti-Theft bicycle stand.      
Figure 6.1. Illustration on proper locking procedures. conducted a series of tests to determine which bike stands are deemed effective against theft.  All three design proposals were yielded positive results, and higher rates of preventing theft of bicycles.  Anti-theft Bicycle Stands, coupled with well-placed locks, can ensure safety against bicycle thefts.

Distribution of Unused Bicycles To Minor Theft Victims
The El Segundo Police Department has an array of unused bicycles in which less fortunate children who are victims of bicycle theft can use temporarily until the recovery of their lost bicycle
Figure 7. Unused bicycles in storage.
Figure 7.1. A teenager aided by local police
This will expectedly restore confidence in the use of bicycles among bicycle theft victims.    

Bicycle Registration
Figure 8. Bicycle registration plate.                  
Figure 8.1.  Bicycle registration drives in England.  
Registration of bicycles can fast-track the recovery of stolen bicycles.  Registrants are encouraged to register their bicycles, and return, can avail of discounts coupons in purchasing bicycle anti-theft devices at their local retail stores.  This can be conducted city-wide through biking campaigns, information drives, and publicity.

Biker Education and Media Campaigns
Figure 9. Bicycle locking reminders.    
Figure 9.1 No-Bike Week signs
Research indicates for crimes such as burglary, publicising crime prevention activity can have an impact on crime over and above the response itself.  Media outlets can be tailor-made to inform the public, specifically bicycle users, on effective locking practices, anti-theft devices, crime prevention events such as registration and bicycle marking.


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