03 March 2016

Do Bikes Cause Bike Thieves To Steal?

Whatever your politics, whatever your religious beliefs (or lack thereof), whatever your situation in life--if you are reading this blog, there is one kind of person whom you find irksome, loathsome or something in between.

That kind of person is a bicycle thief.  If you've been riding long enough in the US or in any number of other places, chances are you've lost a bike to someone who didn't ask or pay for it.  And, I'll bet that even if you oppose capital punishment or anything "cruel and unusual", you've thought of ways to "teach a lesson" to whoever took your treasured two-wheeler.

I must admit: One of the things of which I'm proudest is having stopped a bicycle theft.   Actually, I wasn't so much proud as I was gleeful, almost giddy, to see the expression on the would-be thief's face when I tapped him on the shoulder as he was trying to break the lock on a parked bike.

That day, I stopped someone else's bike from being stolen.  But a couple of times in my life, I couldn't do the same for my own bike.  Perhaps those experiences are the reason why I feel a more visceral kind of anger toward bike thieves than I feel toward others who have committed more "serious" crimes.  I hope that the ones who took my bikes--and the one who tried to take someone else's bike until I stopped him-- had some terrible fate befall them.  Maybe they got chewed up between an inch-pitch chain and sprocket!

All right, I'll stop with the fantasies of torture and dismemberment.  But I'll pose this question to you:  What is a good penalty to impose on a bike thief?

I got to thinking about that question upon learning about John Liddicoat.  The homeless 47-year-old Englishman has 48 convictions for 142 offenses, many of which include bike thefts.  In his most recent incident, he targeted the garage of a house in the Devonshire community of Plymouth. 

In his latest hearing, Judge Ian Lawrie said "You have an appalling record, you are incapable of behaving yourself and you have not learnt your lesson" in handing down Liddicoat's sentence:  a lifetime ban from bicycling.

Yes, you read that last phrase right.  Liddicoat is not allowed to ride a bicycle again, ever.  In fact, he is not allowed within four meters (about 13 feet) of a bicycle--or to enter the campus of any college or school, the places where he committed most of his thefts.

Would you let him within four meters of your bike?

Now, you are probably wondering:  a.) How will the ban be enforced?, and b.) Will it actually stop his criminal behavior?

I couldn't find any answer to a).  Has Apple or some other company been commissioned to make a wrist or ankle bracelet that can detect bikes within his sphere?  Or will bobbies be deployed to watch his every move? 

As for question b.), I think most of you would agree that the answer is most likely "no".  You probably came up with that answer even if you didn't know that he has battled heroin addiction though basically all of his adult life and that he'd just spent three and a half years in jail for his latest stealing spree.

In his most recent burglary of the garage, he also took 20 bottles of wine the homeowner had been saving for Christmas.   Hmm...Will he be banned from being around bottles of Bordeaux?   Is there any way of preventing him from pilfering Port?



  1. I suspect that the sentence is in effect a legal trap. If they ever catch him stealing a bike again or maybe even being near a bike, he will be in violation of this sentence and they would be able to put him away for a good long time. Of course a good lawyer could challenge all of this, but it is unlikely such a lawyer will step foreward.

    I would parallel bike theft and horse thevery in the old west. It was considered the lowest of crimes and vigalanty groups routinely lynched horse theves. Bank robbers and train robbers on the other hand became almost folk heroes and songs were sung about them. Strange if you think about it. What was Jesse James but the leader of an organized crime synicate? Folk hero???

    Nearly first hand knowledge: My family came out west on the Oregon Trail wagon train of 1854.


  2. Leo--Your analysis of the situation sounds about right.

    Your family came out west on the Oregon Trail Wagon train of 1854--and now you're in Finland! That's quite the story!