One of the most entertaining/most sad reality TV shows of recent years was “Bait Car,” which followed various police departments as they set up bait cars (cars with hidden cameras, tracking systems and remote door locks/engine shutoff). The police would drop the car off somewhere in public, observe from a distance, someone would steal the car and then get arrested.
Unlike a lot of crimes, in the case of bait cars there’s really very little reasonable doubt even possible. The criminals are caught in the act and on *many* different cameras. The criminals are, as might be expected, largely scumbags (why else would they steal a car), and most appeared to be pretty damn dumb. These are exactly he sort of people we *don’t* need in society; while executing them might rankle a few, and locking them up for life would cost too much, can’t we ship them off to a penal colony somewhere? How about Australia?
Anyway, San Francisco has been running a similar program. But instead of using cars, the police are setting up bicycles to be stolen. Because apparently bike theft in San Fran is a serious problem. While I’ve little use for bikes, I recognize that bike theft *is* a serious problem for the victim. Not only is the criminal stealing someone elses property, they are taking a chunk of the victims *life* (bikes cost money. Money requires work. Enough money to buy a bike might have required a whole lot of work to afford). Additionally, the criminal is stealing the victims vehicle, stranding them not only right then and there, but potentially for some time to come. If the bike is the victims only way of getting to and from work, the criminal is also damaging the victims ability to make money in the future, potentially putting their jobs at risk. A century and more ago, people would hang horse thieves, and they were right to do so: take a mans horse (means of transport & livelihood) and you might well *kill* *him.*
But even though the bait bike program is clearly sensible, right on cue some people have a problem with it. Why? Because it targets the poor.
Note that the bikes are locked up. In order to steal them, the thief needs bolt cutters or the like to chop the lock.
Something neat the cops in SF are doing: they’re using high-end expensive bikes. Not only is this more enticing for thieves… since the bikes are worth more than $10,000 stealing them is an automatic bump up from misdemeanor to felony. Ha!
Here’s a thought: a smart phone enabled taser built into the seat of your bike. If you come out of the store or wherever to find your bike stolen, simply dial it up and fry ’em. Alternatively: a shotgun shell or a .22 or a hypo full of polonium or some such. A reservoir of superglue built into the handles… on command it glues the perp to the bike. A small pneumatic projector that shoots a cloud of dust into the thieves face. I might suggest cocaine or heroin, with a GPS locator that tells the cops precisely where the thief – now covered in illegal drugs – currently happens to be. Oh, sure, boobytraps are against the law and all, but who can truly argue that such a thing wouldn’t be justice?