Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Stop Thief!


Ok enough with all this health and fitness posted over the last few days. I am forgetting who I am.

I am middle aged, bored of wasting my vote on incompetent politicians and am feeling very sorry for myself as I think I am passing another kidney stone right now. It is therefore my right, actually it is my obligation to have a moan!

So what should this moan be about? Well we have done buses, so now how about that other muddy footprint on the seat of humanity – bike thieves. As I wait the same length of time it takes to ferment a vintage wine, for my PC to start-up, I am not angry at Bill Gates, bless him he tries his best (and he is giving all those Billions to charity) but what I am really annoyed about is hackers and virus writers (and more so script kiddies who just copy the work of the genuine hackers). Why do I have to wait for my anti-virus to boot up, do its preliminary checks and download an update? I have to do it because some scummy low life wants to make so cash out of my PC or just generally screw my life up a little and make me loose a day restoring my PC. Does it work – no it doesn’t because I am not a specific target therefore not personally attacked by hackers with real skill, I just have to protect myself from the general sh1t out there. In 10 years of owning a PC I have not been successfully attacked (yes I know I could be easily if I was a target but I’m not – I have nothing of value on my PC anyway). Despite this nevertheless I still have too loose precious minutes of my life (and they are getting proportionately less each day) waiting for all my anti-virus / anti-Trojan / firewall to churn into life each time I turn on my PC, and that really bugs me!

Same for the house – burglar alarm, high cost for special locks on every door and window – though all this is unnecessary as I have a very large dog (used for hunting lions) that will just have anyone who decides to break in as an aperitif before his evening meal. Burglars seem to know this and (touch wood) I have never been burgled, this is not too much of a cost as the dog is brilliant and make really helps make the house a home. Though it is a bit of a nuisance having to pick up his mess which can be quite a bit if two people tried to rob the house at the same time.  

So although the above may have seen a tangent to what I started talking about, it relates very much with owning a bike. So we go out and spend thousands on carbon fibre bikes and accessories and then we have to go and slap a gold rated lock on the bike frame every time we want to pop out anywhere. Now I know these locks have to be made as strongly as possible – it means that the thief will have to take 3 minutes breaking it off as opposed to 1 minute or less for the cheaper locks, but you end up in a situation where the lock weighs about the same as your whole bike! The only solution for this weight problem – I have to buy a number of locks and leave them in specific locations I leave the bike, so this means one at home and one at work at the very least. These locks are not cheap though – a cheap Gold rated lock cost £70 upwards on average – then you could blow another £100 on additional cables for the front tire – or even if you are very paranoid two Gold rated locks one for the front and one for the back. Then there are all those special locks to stop wheels being removed or your forks taken out – the cost can be astronomical.

So why the expensive locks? Well if you want to insure your bike one of the conditions is that it has a Gold rated lock on it, fair enough I can see the insurers point of view here. And before I forget it – there is another cost insurance – it is roughly 1% of the value of your bike every month. The costs just keep mounting don’t they!

So let’s just work out an average cost here – say £140 on locks etc. and then say £10 a month on insurance so that’s £260 in the first year of bike ownership and then £120 every year following that. That’s a lot of additional cost and a lot of additional weight. But do you know what that really grips my sh1t (great saying that) about all of this. This weight and financial cost is not for anything of value, it is just to protect our goods which we bought with taxed income to protect us from the scum that think it is fine to steal our goods and then sell them on the dodgy stolen goods market for probably 20% of their real value (or more if they use eBay as so many do).

So rant over – as you may have guessed it annoys me slightly, let’s try and be positive and look at some ways in which we can deal with this problem, here is my list of things that we can do:

1)  Make sure we lock our bikes properly – the less easy it is for the thief the less income they will make, then they may even try and get a real job (fat chance).
2)  If you see someone getting their bike stolen – don’t ignore it – you don’t need to go into ninja mode – just shout something like “hey what are you doing to that bike thief stop” (fell free to insert some expletives to make you seem harder). The last thing a thief wants is to have attention to themselves, they will probably do a runner rather than risk confrontation.
3)  We should pressurise local politicians to do something about this.

We are being told all the time by the local politicians “save the planet, be healthy and cycle. Yet I believe one of the biggest deterrents to people starting is cost (see above) and the fear of having their new bike stolen. Bike theft is endemic in London, and believe me through work I do know a few things about this area. Unless people like Boris Johnson make bike theft a target that is tracked the police will do nothing about it, after all bike theft still just counts as a +1 theft (without violence) the same as someone stealing a tube of smarties from ASDA.

Generally in crime there is a thing known as the 80/20 rule. Basically 80% of the bike thefts are committed by 20% of the people. You will find there are organised gangs of criminals who go round stealing the bikes – they have their preferred locations and generally work in gangs of 3 one person to drive the van another to do the cutting and another to act as lookout and for protection. It is not very difficult to deal with these people – simply the police need a number of decoy bikes, they lock (with a reasonably easy lock to cut) them up in various locations, they should already know the preferred locations and then wait – it really won’t be that long a wait.

Rather than pounce on the thieves as they steal the bike, just have a tracking device inside the frame  and let them take the bike back to their “lair” – this means you stand a good chance of getting far more people than the muppets sent out to do the stealing, apart from anything else there would be a good chance of claiming back a few extra stolen bikes, besides by using the police like this they could actually catch criminals rather than wasting their time trying to catch me speeding in my car (in 25 years + of driving they have so far spectacularly failed).

So why isn’t this done? Don’t ask me ask Mayor Boris, I have on more than 3 occasions almost run into him as he cycles past London Bridge station, he claims to be all for the bike – let’s face it he brought out the Boris Bike, he cycles and he set up the cycle highway. By putting some resources into this at random points he could affect a difference in this ever vicious circle, I pay my Council tax / London surcharge for things that help me – but so far all I seem to get is fewer bins collections, how about doing something for Mr Average Punter?

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