Wednesday, June 20, 2012

los international interview series: To Catch a Bike Thief // Vancouver BC

Hello readers y friends;
A new series has begun. Los international interview series is exactly as it sounds. Short interviews via email (and some in person) from people outside the states Рslowly starting with Canada +M̩xico.

With the help of the internet, places often seem a click away and it is a great way to become inspired and informed on people and places that are making a difference in their local area. I like this aspect of technology very much.
As I start to blog again at my own pace, I wanted to feature a handful of people and their projects that are new to me and share them as I came across them. Quite frequently these are also received via email, which is also very cool they take time to do so much outreaching.

Let me know what you think of the idea, thought it would of interest to my audience, so even made a quick little new graphic. The mobile photo taken by me at the international MEX-US Tijuana San Ysidro border, note the high bar shadows.

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This week we head over to Vancouver, BC to learn about: 
To Catch a Bike Thief.

How is To Catch a Bike Thief born?
TCABT: The theft of a red Schwinn Moab on January 13, 2011 from one of our team members' homes officially marked the start of To Catch a Bike Thief. Denial, anger, regret and sadness quickly gave way to inspiration.   We immediately began wondering what we'd say to bike thieves if we had the chance to confront them.  We then started thinking it would be cool if we could set something like that up on camera.  We took to the streets with a video camera to start asking people for ideas on how to confront the bike theft problem.
Before long, we decided that if we wanted to address bike theft, we'd have to figure out how to study the problem.  Building a bait bike seemed like the obvious choice because it would allow us to confront bike thieves, find out where stolen bicycles go, track down buyers of stolen bicycles and ultimately help us understand how to disrupt the chains of supply and demand for stolen bikes.  We are not the first to construct a bait bike, but we are certainly the first to attempt making and using bait bikes as part of a reality show.  

As our team evolved, people with the skills necessary to build a bait bike emerged and we began testing the bait bike in the field.  At first, we kept the bait bike on a short leash - doing round-the-clock stakeouts to capture a bike thief stealing our bike on camera.  We eventually transitioned to "lock and leave" operations where the bait bike was left out until it was taken. 

How does TCBT's team come together for this project, how did you all meet+connect?
TCABT: The To Catch a Bike Thief team are a group of friends in Vancouver BC united by their love of bicycles.  Each person has had an unfortunate run-in with bicycle theft, which fueled their motivation to do something about the problem.   The team really bonded during our first stakeout in June 2011, and have been working on developing the show ever since.

In one of your statements about the project you express: To Catch a Bike Thief takes on these deeper issues, exploring the social conditions that shape the culture of bike theft. As patterns emerge and differing perspectives are voiced, we make it our mission to disrupt the chains of supply and demand that fuel it.
Other than the exposure and promoting such issue with your series, are the police/local authorities involved? And if so do they cooperate with the growing issue?
TCABT: We're trying to involve the police as little as possible.  Our intention is not to make a law enforcement show with our web series. We are mostly interested in understanding the problem of bicycle theft - figuring out who steals bikes, why, where stolen bikes go, and how stolen bikes are bought and sold.  We realized pretty early on that bicycle theft is a much more complicated problem than it being "bad" bike thieves stealing "good" cyclists' bikes. 
We've realized that even if we were to "catch" every single bike thief out there today, tomorrow, bike theft would still be a problem.  This is the case for 3 reasons:  
1) Bike theft is incredibly easy - anyone can go to Home Depot and buy the tools you need to rip off a bike.  
2) Nobody cares about bicycle theft.  As many amateur film makers have shown on YouTube, you could sit there and steal your own bike all day long in broad day light and nobody would try and stop you.  
3) The risk/reward balance favours bike thieves.  With over 2.5 bicycles stolen every minute (, people who steal bikes are clearly winning.  At the end of the day, we want to be able to provide a compelling narrative about bike theft that frames the issue as a socioeconomic problem (not a law enforcement problem), and show how technology and social networking tools can help cyclists and communities protect themselves against bike theft

Can you talk a little more about this GPS technology and some of the experiences with your bait bike such as success stories, fights or nasty confrontations with thieves?
TCABT: We tested several different GPS Trackers in our bait bike, and found that there is a tradeoff between battery life and precision.  All GPS trackers receive longitude and latitude coordinates from orbiting satelites and then use the mobile telephone network to broadcast their location to a mapping server.  Good GPS trackers will differentiate themselves by the frequency at which they are able to update the mapping server of their location.  The trade-off here is that the more frequently an update is sent, the quicker the tracker's battery life is drained.  And when your bike has been stolen by someone, minutes do count!  Good trackers provide a vibration sensor to wake them from sleep mode so that the GPS antenna is not constantly powered up. Another key distinguishing feature to look out for is the graphical interface.  Cheaper models skimp on display and mapping features such as historical playback and geofencing, which can mean the difference between getting your bike back or not.

In our web series, we ended up using the Livewire FastTrac device from Brickhouse Security because it sends 10 second location updates and has a battery that lasts much longer than claimed thanks to the smart vibration sensor that wakes it from multiple sleep modes.  The graphical user interface is the best of all GPS Trackers tested, and the customer service provided by knowledgeable  service reps by phone or chat made the purchasing process very pleasant.  The downside to this service is that it is offered by monthly subscription only and requires an ongoing monthly fee of $40 (about 25 pounds) per month to remain active. 

We've been pretty fortunate in our interactions with bicycle thieves that no one has been especially difficult, and in all cases, we've been able to get our Bait Bike back from them.  We're hoping it stays that way, however, one of our newest team members - Toler Thompson - has a background in providing security and has already proven to be an asset as far as analyzing human behavior during interactions with bicycle thieves is concerned to determine whether or not they are telling the truth.

Would you like to share future plans for your project, and is there a plan for TCAB to grow as a global community?
TCABT: We've been very fortunate in the level of support we've received from the cycling community and beyond for our project and we want to take advantage the help so many amazing people have offered us.  In the near term, we are developing our web series locally for season 1, but are open to expanding to explore how bike theft works in other cities such as San Francisco, New York and LA.   
We hope that our website, becomes a hub for cyclists interested in bike theft to learn how bicycle theft works, how to protect one's self against it, and watch entertaining videos about people who try to fight the problem!

We've also received tremendous interest from TV production companies that are interested in working with us to develop our show as a broadcast television show.  We're currently working with an Emmy Award winning production company to create a pitch to some major networks and are pretty optimistic that we'll be able to get a shot at a TV show as well!

Where can we find further information/links for our readers to learn more?

**check out more of their videos below:

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Feel free to leave comments/questions/feedback for them to see.
Thanks y gracias very much to Ingo Lou for introducing me to TCABT and (+his awesome team) +for participating!!

DISCLAIMER. The series as the blog itself, are non-profit/non-payed/and unfiltered/unedited. Thank you for reading.

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