About Me

My photo
I'm a Sociology Professor at the University of Toronto. I write about gun violence, health disparities, and Hip Hop culture. When I'm not doing research, I like pop-locking, swimming, and learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This is my first blog. I hope you like it.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thieves Bait

Partially out of stupidity, and partially out of laziness, I've started locking my bicycle to a street sign in front of our apartment building.  I've done this for about 9 months without any problems.  In fact, lots of people do this in my neighborhood. 

This morning, while taking my dog out for a walk, I discovered that someone stole the rear tire from my bicycle. 

Property theft sucks.  In addition to the money it will take to replace this tire (I'm guessing that it could cost about $100), I now have to spend part of my already busy afternoon at a local bicycle store.  As someone who enjoys efficiency, this is no fun: I can't help thinking about all the other ways I could spend the money needed to replace the tire, or about all the other ways I'd rather spend a couple hours of my day.

1st moral of this story: Use the metal cord that comes with a U-lock to secure the rear tire.

While sitting in my apartment and trying to imagine how and when this thief stole my rear tire, I began to reflect on another personal experience with property crime that involves...A bicycle locked up outside of my apartment!

During my fourth year as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, I shared a 1-bedroom apartment with Anthony Ervin, the gold medalist in 50 meter freestyle in the 2000 Olympics. 

We lived in a pretty dumpy place.  I lived in the living room, which doubled as my bedroom.  For privacy, I used a partially transparent bed sheet that sort of covered the entrance into the living room/bedroom (whenever someone was in the kitchen with the lights on, I could see their silhouette from my bed).  For the most part, our place was a bachelor pad: We had an old set of sofas, rarely cooked anything except for pasta, played lots of Counterstrike, and spent most of our time partying or having late night existential talks.

One spring afternoon, Anthony and I went to a sushi place near our apartment. After finishing lunch, we began walking to campus.  Before continuing to campus, Anthony decided to grab a hoodie from home (Berkeley can be chilly, even in the spring).  Already running late, I begrudgingly went along with him.  As we approached our apartment, I remember saying, "Hurry up, man, we gotta go!" 

He then reached into his pockets and began unlocking the front door.  In a matter of moments, we then heard the sound of loud, thudding footsteps running toward the door.  The footsteps grew louder and were now accompanied by yelling.  Then, the front door swung open and a guy with latex gloves sprinted past us.  Without hesitation, he ran down our driveway, turned the corner of our block, and dove Dukes of Hazard-style into the passenger side of a getaway car.  Within seconds, the getaway car sped off into the distance, never to be seen again. 

I wish I could say that we both leapt into action, chased down the burglar, tackled him to the ground, and turned him over to the authorities.  However, this fantasy didn't play out that day.  Instead, Anthony and I both stood frozen on our porch, staring blankly at our front door which was slightly ajar.  As the getaway car sped away, both of us looked at each other with confused faces, wondering "What the hell just happened!?"

We then entered our apartment and found that we had a meticulous burglar on our hands.  Unlike the movies, where a burglar ransacks a place, leaving drawers and cupboards open and personal items strewn about, our place was surprisingly neat and orderly.  In fact, it took us a few minutes to figure out what he had been planning to steal.  The bathroom and kitchen were left untouched.  Anthony discovered that his ziplock bag of laundry quarters was missing, but that other personal items were left alone in his bedroom.  Then, we went into the living room/my bedroom and saw that he had unplugged our computers, television, and playstation 2.  I remember how carefully he organized these items in the corner of the room.  The cords were coiled neatly, as if to prevent them from getting tangled and knotted. 
The following day, one of our neighbors told us that a man was inquiring about my bike that was locked up along a chain link fence.  Apparently, she discovered him snooping around our back yard eyeing my bicycle.  When asked if he knew someone at the property, he sort of stuttered and produced this line about wanting to buy my bicycle.  In hindsight, she told me, "I wish I would have told you about this guy, he just rubbed me the wrong way." 

In the end, I don't know if this guy was the burglar, or if he was just an interested party who wanted to buy my bicycle.  I don't think the two events are unrelated, but I guess I'll never know for sure.  

Anyways, here's the 2nd moral of the story: Don't leave your bicycle locked up outside of your apartment.  It's thieve's bait.  In addition to inviting someone to steal it (or your rear tire), it can also become an excuse for someone to do more in-depth recon at your apartment.



  1. Remember the time we walked outside of the Cherry apartment at 530am and found that a thief had chopped down the tree out front just to steal my $80 kmart bike? I remember we both just looked at the tree for a while not really understanding why it was chopped down or where my bike was. Congrats on the blog!

  2. I almost forgot about that incident. Yet another classic story of why it's a bad idea to leave your bike locked up outside!