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I'm surprised anyone has a problem with bait bikes. This seems to suggest people think it's ok to steal bikes that aren't locked up. It's not ok to shoplift things from CVS, even if they're not in a locked case. Why would this be any different? Is CVS trying to entrap drug addicts by leaving its merchandise out in the open?

I don't think anybody who steals a bike should be let off with a warning. If you're drunk and decided to "borrow" it, that doesn't excuse the behavior. Otherwise, we're saying that bikes are somehow less important than all other personal property, and it's sometimes OK to steal them. Just another way cyclists marginalize ourselves...

Unlocked bait bikes feel like entrapment. If someone leaves an open briefcase filled with money outside a 7-11, you're stealing if you take it; but a lot of otherwise law-abiding people would be tempted to do so. I'm not interested in capturing opportunistic thieves or those with poor impulse control. It's the professionals, the ones who break into back yards, those who break locks, etc... that I'm interested in.

My point is that not all crime is equal.

But I grew up in a Catholic household where we were taught that tempting people to sin was a sin; and that leaving valuables unlocked was tempting them to steal.

@washcycle - "I'm not interested in capturing opportunistic thieves or those with poor impulse control."

Really? I am. Because regardless of who might steal my bike, the result is that I don't have a bike. If my bike is stolen by an "otherwise law-abiding person", that's okay?

What you see as an unreasonable temptation (leaving a bike unlocked), I see as something people SHOULD be able to do for a reasonably short amount of time -- and the fact that you can't is a symptom of inadequate law enforcement.

Keep in mind, the bait bikes are effective, according to the article: "...thefts dropped by 45% at Cambridge rail station when British Transport Police tested the method. Even in the UK's bike theft capital, London, rates dropped by around a third in one local trial."

That's a much safer environment for cyclists. And you want to say no because of some kind of moral issue, where you think certain criminals don't deserve to be caught for their crimes?

All criminals deserve to be caught for their crimes, but I think enticing people to commit crime is wrong.

Also, efficacy is not the only issue. If the police would search every home once a month, looking for evidence of criminal behavior, that would probably be pretty effective. But it wouldn't be something I'd support.

Sometimes people are in a hurry and forget to lock their bikes. Or they pop into the store for just a minute and think the bike will be okay. Not "enticing people to commit crime", just absent-minded (or naive). An unlocked bait bike simulates that situation. Would you really side with the thief over the victim?

It seems that you think the thief, if he gets caught, is the real victim. Sure, he stole a bike, but it was too tempting. Seriously?? That's baffling to me. The victim is the person whose bike gets stolen, period.

Let me ask you another question, out of honest curiosity. What do you think of law enforcement agents going on internet chats, posing as prepubescent children, in order to catch pedophiles? So far as I know, it gets people into custody who would otherwise have victimized someone for real. Do you think that's a legitimate tactic? If so, then aside from the nature of the crime, what's the difference here? (If not, I doubt we can reconcile our points of view.)

No, I don't think the thief in the situation described is the real victim. They stole a bike and that's a crime.

In your "to catch a predator" situation it depends on what the law enforcement agents do. If they wait for the perp to make contact, and to bring up sex and allow them to go to a location, then no it isn't entrapment. Allowing them to drive over takes the "snap decision" out of the equation.

The bait bikes make the police look like they don't really understand their jobs. What they don't seem to get is that there are people who are professional bike thieves, who can break most locks very quickly -- or destroy the bike trying. They don't get much for the bikes they steal (and nothing for the ones they destroy) so they have to steal a lot of bikes every day. A small number of pro bike thieves are responsible for a lot of misery on the part of a lot of cyclists.

A bait bike program that would make sense would be to take expensive bikes, put them out in high-bike-theft areas, secured with a poor-quality locks. To a professional, a poor-quality lock is essentially the same as unlocked.

(Or maybe the police really do understand all this, and know that it's a lot less work just to catch some random lowlife, you can put out the same press release either way.)

The moral/ethical question:
Is it wrong to put an expensive bike out in a high-bike-theft area, secured with a poor-quality lock that a professional thief could easily break? Is this better/worse/different than the completely unlocked bike? Discuss.

With people getting bikes stolen every day, it's wrong not to.

Just as a matter of priorities, I can see that going after the pros first, as you describe, Contrarian, may be more effective. But ultimately, anyone who steals a bike in any state of lock or unlock should not remain a free man (or woman). It's not okay to steal, ever. That someone was really tempted, is in drug rehab, etc. is not an excuse.

Scott F, I think we're talking past each other. I concede that stealing is always a crime. And that it is always wrong. An entrapment argument concedes that as well.

Do you believe that there is any time when one can claim entrapment? (If not, I doubt we can reconcile our points of view.) If so, what circumstances do you think are needed for entrapment?

But ultimately, anyone who steals a bike in any state of lock or unlock should not remain a free man (or woman). It's not okay to steal, ever.

So if your goal was to cut down on car radio theft, would you leave car radios on the sidewalk? And if your goal was to cut bank robbery, would you leave bundles of cash on the sidewalk?

What makes someone a bike thief is not what they steal, it's how they steal it.

Washcycle: I think entrapment might be if the police open the hatchback to your car, put in a bike that is not yours, and when you go to leave, arrest you for attempting to drive off with the bike. That might be entrapment.

Contrarian, good question: I don't think a unlocked bait bike is any more wrong than a poorly locked expensive bait bike. However, I'm guessing a poorly locked bait bike that is stolen would probably stand up better in court against a bike thief defendant in our court system in this country. To me, it seems a lock that is actively broken with bolt cutters means the person was not "borrowing" the bike - a possible argument in court? If the point is to stop bike theft, why use something that might not stand up in court as well, right? But then again, I'm not a lawyer, so what do I know.

Our news sometimes describes the FBI setting up stings "representing" themselves as Russian agents, or fake arms buyers, or whatever, in order to get more evidence to use against those they already suspect of having committed a crime. Some might argue this is entrapment. I'm also guessing they wouldn't do this if it wouldn't hold up in court - and thus the entrapment argument doesn't apply for whatever reason. I don't think this is any different with locked bait bikes.

Contrarian: The article notes a 45% drop in bike thefts in the immediate area. There may be room for improvement, but it is effective.

Contrarian: The article notes a 45% drop in bike thefts in the immediate area. There may be room for improvement, but it is effective.

That makes me think they're cooking the numbers.

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