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This Time They Got The Rack—But Not The Bike

by Thomas MacMillan | Jul 25, 2014 8:20 am

(8) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Legal Writes, Transportation, Downtown

Contributed Photo A group of kids couldn’t yank free the bike they were trying to steal, but they knocked over another one—which had been bolted into the ground.

The would-be thieves were spotted Wednesday afternoon yanking on a black Giant hybrid bike that was locked to a bike-shaped bike rack in Pitkin Plaza on Orange Street downtown. As they tried to bust through the cable lock securing the bike, they pulled over the entire bike rack, then fled the scene.

That was the story that an eyewitness related to Matt Feiner, who own the Devil’s Gear Bike Shop in the plaza.

That story had a happier ending than a similar one a month ago, when a bike thief managed to topple a bike rack and make off with a bike locked at the corner of Lawrence and Nash streets. Click the video to watch it happen.

Feiner had two recommendations following the Pitkin Plaza bike-theft attempt. First, the city should look into anchoring racks deeper into the ground. Second, cyclists should not use cable locks, unless in combination with a U-lock. Bike thieves can cut through cable locks or sometimes get them open through persistent yanking alone.

Thomas MacMIllan Photo Feiner (pictured) pieced together what happened on Wednesday afternoon:

The attempted theft happened “in broad daylight.”

It was sometime between 2 and 4 p.m. Feiner’s shop was very busy. Somebody came in and told him: “Your bike rack fell over.”

Thinking it was one of the shop’s outdoor display racks, Feiner headed outside to take a look. The city’s bike-shaped rack was on its side, pinning a Giant bike underneath.

Later, a man in a suit came up and told Feiner that he’d seen the whole episode. It was a group of kids, the man told Feiner. They’d been yanking on the Giant bike and pulled the whole rack over. The man had snapped some photos with his phone, but the kids hid their faces.

Then at about 5 p.m., the owner of the bike showed up. Feiner checked over the guy’s bike, which was undamaged.

“Why would they pull on a lock like that?” the man asked Feiner. Because sometimes they pop open, Feiner replied. He sold the guy a U-lock.

Feiner said the Devil’s Gear doesn’t even sell cable locks anymore, except with U-locks. They’re too unreliable on their own. Used in conjunction with a U-lock, the cable secures the wheels, while the U-lock secures the bike frame. “They won’t cut a cable just to steal a wheel,” Feiner said.

He demonstrated the most secure way to lock your bike: the “lasso” method. Click on the video to watch him demonstrate.

Feiner also recommended converting quick-release wheels to bolt-on.

And notice what you’re locking to, he said. Some street signs can be pulled out of the ground. And sometimes thieves can remove a sign and lift off a bike locked to a signpost.

Feiner speaks from experience. He said he had four bikes stolen in two years after he moved to New Haven in 1988.

Top downtown cop Sgt. Tammi Means said her crew plans to review surveillance footage in hopes of tracking down the would-be bike-grabbers.

“It seems,” Feiner said, “like the thieves in New Haven over the last couple of years have gotten more industrious.”

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posted by: grounded on July 25, 2014  9:54am

Matt Feiner is a local treasure.

posted by: robn on July 25, 2014  10:42am

Why isn’t the theft of a vehicle sometimes worth $500-$5000 treated as a felony?

posted by: TheMadcap on July 25, 2014  11:52am

@robn

If the value of something stolen exceeds $1,000, it will become 3rd degree larceny, which is a class D felony(at $5k you hit a C level felony, at 10k you hit a B level felony). However the law that makes stealing a car a felony in itself I believe specifically only applies to autos, not all vehicles(I don’t think stealing a moped would count as auto theft for example)

posted by: robn on July 25, 2014  12:06pm

I don’t think that people who rely on bikes or choose to ride bikes should be penalized by lax laws that treat bikes as toys and give teenagers a slap on the wrist for stealing them.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on July 25, 2014  12:46pm

there are a variety of GPS devices that are inserted into the bike frame that give cyclists a shot at locating and recovering stolen bikes.

If your bike is worth $500 or more, I think it’s a good investment.

And yes, police should make recovery and prosecution more of a priority.

The truth is there is currently little likelihood the police will make any effort to recover a stolen bike, no matter how valuable.

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on July 25, 2014  2:26pm

Looking at the video I was looking for a group of kids who did this damage, but all I saw was one individual. And gauging his size from surroundings, it was an adult, 6’ to 6’2”, 200 lbs or better. And he was sporting not only a serious lack of concern for being watched, or police, as the bicycle was facing Chapel St, between Orange St, and the entrance of the New Haven Market. There is a bus stop nor more than 30’ feet from the bike rack. What is ironic is that if someone parked in the street maybe 20’ away, illegally, chances are far better that they will receive a parking tag much faster, than the chances a police officer would pull up and arrest this man. It is so bold, I can only believe the theif has done time, and knows the CJ system in New Haven so well, he has no fear of an arrest, and if he is arrested he most likely knows that he will not do any time incarcerated for this act. What is the overall cost of the act. It can’t be measured, but it does add concrete to all the anecdotal stories about violent predators roaming the streets of not only New Haven’s neighborhoods, but throughout the downtown area. People who walk amongst all the really good people that live, work, and visit New Haven on a daily basis, is truly someone who should not be unmonitored when he is amongst the remainder of the public. How much crime has he really committed? Hard to measure, but his actions are truly based in some vision of reality the most of the general public does not share. I apologize for what I am thinking, but I wonder what would be the penalty for this person in court in a Muslim nation? Shame our society of non-involvement is not like the Parisians in the movie “Bicycle Thief”. I am not sure the population of New Haven would not be able to grasp the concepts of public participation in a civilized manner to intercede to stop the decay of daily life, that folks like this man is representative of. Maybe some of the Yalies can create a block watch.

posted by: TheMadcap on July 25, 2014  5:48pm

@robn

Hey I agree, I only own a bike so if I walked out of somewhere and it was suddenly gone I’m having a problem getting to work the next day. I’m just pointing out what the current law is.

posted by: TheMadcap on July 25, 2014  5:49pm

@JustAnotherTaxPayer

That video is from another similar incident that happened last week

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