Nov 282012
 

A Gary Fischer Wahoo like this one was stolen from one of the respondents to my Craigslist ad on Nov. 11, outside Canal Place Theaters. Be on the lookout, and let me know if you see it! — Jean Paul Villere.

Jean-Paul Villere

As I walked home from work Sunday afternoon I noted a rather nice bike seemingly left as garbage near a dumpster across the street from my house.  Curious, I went over to investigate.  There was a kickstand disengaged and left in its cradle, and the tires had ample air, yet this newer looking ride seemed to be discarded, left as refuse.  I scoped around to find no one about, so took it upon myself to claim the bike, and as I did so I figured this was a bike thief’s bounty left behind for whatever reason.  The next day I placed a found ad in the bikes section of Craigslistand then tweeted it too.  The results shocked me, and this is why the bike thieves are winning:

In my ad I gave a basic description of the bike and the geographic locale, and of all the more than a dozen responses I received surprisingly not even one came close.  From Bianchis to beach cruisers from the university areas to the Marigny, bikes had gone missing in the last little while, almost like a two-wheeled rapture, if you will.  Inexplicably there one moment and gone the next.  In one case the victim relayed a a story of a busted tree or branch during the process of the theft.  Clearly bike thieves have no code and have no geographic preference.  Wherever the cheddar, you just may find the rat.

My family too has a fresh bike theft story to share as well.  On opening day for the Saints this season, we decided to visit Audubon Zoo.  It was a lovely if not quiet and sunny afternoon until we returned home to discover my wife’s bike had made an untimely exit.  The thieves (or thief, who knows?) had likely boosted themselves over our eight-foot wooden fence and let themselves out via an unlocked driveway gate.  Shame on us for leaving it unlocked?  Maybe.  Either way the perp(s) was clearly trespassing.  We called NOPD who quickly showed up actually to take our report, but frankly I didn’t think anything would happen.  I was just going through the motions.

Then I sent an email to my friends and neighbors to both alert them to the theft but to also ask to be on the lookout for her bike, a distinctive beach cruiser with discernible markings, easily identifiable.  We hoped for the best but expected nothing to happen, mostly just upset about the disruption it caused.  You see, we are a single car family, and my wife uses her bike almost every day as a primary form of transportation to get to and from work.  It stung but we moved on, until a neighbor a few weeks later found her bike unlocked and just sitting outside a fast food spot on S Claiborne.  

We debated what to do. Should we call the police?  Would they really do anything?  How likely would it be the perp was either a patron or worked there, and how less likely is it they would reveal themselves?  Lastly, would it be a good use of the NOPD’s time?  And on that note we collectively decided it best to re-steal the bike.  Because the time it would take NOPD to do something and the likelihood of punishing the guilty seemed nil.  So my neighbor grabbed the unchained bike that without question belonged to my wife, threw it in the back of his pickup and returned it to us.  I heartily thanked the universe.  This bike meant something more to us; I’d actually given it to her as a present some years ago.

Ours is a reluctantly happy story though, and very much in the minority.  Our driveway is padlocked now, too, and all our bikes are accounted for.  Lastly, at press time, no one has claimed the one I found the other day.  So I ask you, what’s the solution here?

Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and Du Mois Gallery on Freret Street and a married father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at UptownMessenger.com, he also shares his family’s adventures sometimes via pedicab or bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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  • http://twitter.com/slowsouthstyle Christy Lorio

    I worry more about my bike getting stolen than my car. In fact, whenever I have my bike stowed in the back of my small SUV, I worry about my car getting broken into for the bike.

  • Moses

    The solution is to make bikes available to everyone and encourage everyone to use a bicycle – that’s one way to reduce carbon emissions fast. Now who or what entity would supply those bikes free to the community?

    • Uptowner

      This would be nice and all but the problem of some bikes being better than others would remain, thus demanding a higher (street) value. I don’t think in these times, any entity has the $ to supply such resources (short of maybe Tom Benson). This is a great utopian thought but not realistic at all.

  • http://twitter.com/bradleypw Bradley Warshauer

    A while ago there was a story on NPR about what has become a national epidemic of bike thievery. The story focused on a Portland man who became so fed up after losing something like half a dozen bikes in five years across three cities that he developed some sort of bike tracking system.

    There was a line about the “four types of street currency” — “sex, drugs, cash, and bikes.”

    Crazy stuff.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Saxgourmet Steve Goodson

    the solution is for the NOPD to profile the predators and stop and question them at every occasion, and to arrest them for the slightest infraction……we need to start exterminating the predators and stop worrying about rehabilitating them…..we exterminate rats and cockroaches, we should do the same with the predators who are holding us hostage in our homes

  • http://twitter.com/blathering Jen L

    I grew up in Old Jefferson and had every bike I ever owned stolen, including the rusted out junker I borrowed from my Mom.So the problem is suburban too.

    Mostly I think they’re taken as easy transportation when there is nothing else to steal. And, yes, I know that NOPD has more dangerous criminals to deal with but I wish they would take the bike thieves seriously too.

  • Cmb6091

    Require that bikes be registered and have a permit to be used on the street. Make it $5 a year. No plate on the bike, you get pulled over and if credentials don’t match it gets impounded. Worth paying $5 a year and having to put up with some type of signage on the rear to help curve theft. Unlike cars, most thieves don’t tear down bikes for parts. Hence, a bike thief is very likely to steal the bike for his personal use and even more likely to utilize it to commit more crimes. It’s a pain but a local statute requiring registration would help curb violent crime, muggings and yes bike theft.

  • stwayman

    A bike store taught me one solution: double lock your bike, using two different kind of sturdy locks. That way, thieves need two sets of tools to break through. Lock the bike to a tree trunk or to a metal pole. I lock my bike, secured, even inside the storage shed, threading the cable through a big eye hook that is screwed into the side of the shed. I’ve never had a bike stolen since I used this method.

  • UptownMessenger

    Just a note to say that I was at the Sixth District comstat meeting yesterday, and Commander Bardy had apparently read this column, Jean-Paul. He said to tell you that the officer who leads the “bait bike” stings he started last year (http://uptownmessenger.com/2011/06/police-your-unlocked-bike-wont-last-10-minutes-on-the-streets-of-new-orleans/) is out with the flu this week, but if you want bike-thief arrests, he’s going to go do some.

  • http://www.facebook.com/suzannejuliette Suzanne-Juliette Mobley

    I’m on my third bike this year! One theft, on video, from the Healing Center which has an NOPD substation in it! I have 12 friends who have had bikes stolen this year as well.

  • Sue

    The first time our bikes were stolen they took them from my fenced yard. My neighbors saw them leaving with the bikes, one followed the kids and the other came to tell us what had happened. Our neighbor knew where the bikes and the thieves were. We called the cops, shockingly someone showed up. We recounted the story to him and alerted him that our bikes were around the corner with the kids who took them. The policeman refused to file a report, stating that we had no proof they were our bikes (even though I had the receipt since they were brand new) and that the kids would just say it was a xmas gift. We choose not to go after the kids ourselves (which I regret now). After that the same kids would always check our yard for things to steal (even when the gate was locked they would climb over the 7ft fence), and in fact took another unlocked bike from my yard while my husband was in the yard (he walked away for a second). We now lock the bikes in a shed (that we had to buy) and lock the gate at all times with a pad lock and lock the bike up while inside the locked shed (along with some other things that I don’t want stolen). But we never called the cops again, because I didn’t feel like a) they would believe me and b) they wouldn’t do anything about it even if they did believe me.