A trip through the “bike-crime underbelly”—and the futility of new technology when it comes to preventing it:
The purpose of stealing a bike, after all, is to sell it. SFPD’s McCloskey estimated that 90 percent of bike thieves are drug addicts. In America’s rough streets, there are four forms of currency—cash, sex, drugs, and bicycles. Of those, only one is routinely left outside unattended. So the story of bike thieves would not be complete without a trip through the second half of the transaction—the recycling of cycles.
Stolen bikes suffer many fates. In the Bay Area, they are often sold at flea markets, particularly in Alameda, just south of Oakland. In Portland, within hours of being taken, a few will appear at pawn shops just outside city limits, where documentation rules are lax. But just as they do in New York City, which shut down most ad hoc bike dealers years ago, the majority end up online, either on eBay or on Craigslist, the black hole of bicycles.