How do bike thieves steal bikes?
June 20, 2010 4:05 PM   Subscribe

Was someone tagging my bike for theft later?

I park at the Woodside station in Queens a few times a week. I have a bike that's a cheap steel-frame single speed, but it's pretty attractive. I locked my bike with a U-bar and a chain through the wheels. When I returned from my commute, there was a hat from a local bagel shop (new) carefully placed on the handlebars, as if it was being marked for a truck and tools to come back later.

Am I being paranoid?
posted by Michael Pemulis to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is the shop new or is the hat new?

If the bagel shop is new, I'd think it's more likely a weird marketing ploy.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 4:12 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, can't prove a negative so there's no way to say they weren't tagging your bike for later, but it would be pretty ridiculous to leave such a closely-identifying marker. It's more likely that someone had to stop to tie their shoe or change their shirt or do a J or any number of other things that may require a doffing, and forgot it. There's probably a local bagel shop employee who's catching hell for losing his new hat, or at least would appreciate it if you dropped it off there.
posted by carsonb at 4:14 PM on June 20, 2010

I think there's an innocent explanation. My guess is that someone dropped a hat next to your bike, and someone walking by either thought that the hat was more likely to be found up closer to passer-by's line of sight, or that the owner of the bike had dropped the hat as well. On preview, marketing ploy also crossed my mind and seems plausible.

There are way less complicated ways to mark something for later stealing.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 4:15 PM on June 20, 2010 [6 favorites]

If it were a yachting cap, now that would be weird.

But seriously, I go with wuzandfuzz - someone must have dropped it, and a kind soul put it somewhere where it wouldn't get dirty and would be more visible. I often see people put things like scarves and mittens on fences; I assume it is for the same reason.
posted by Shebear at 4:20 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

If there were a tag-and-steal operation, they would probably choose a much easier and less expensive option than leaving hats on bikes. Colorful zip-ties, ribbon, etc, are all cheaper, more visible, and less likely to fall off or be stolen. Hat-from-local-bagel-shop would be pretty ridiculous and have seemingly no pay off.
posted by farishta at 4:24 PM on June 20, 2010

Also, having just noticed your title: most bike thieves, as far as I know, cut locks (if they even have to) and ride the bikes off themselves. A 'tag' and truck system would be much more visible and dangerous.
posted by farishta at 4:25 PM on June 20, 2010

Best answer: Yeah, someone just put a hat on your bike.
posted by Menthol at 4:45 PM on June 20, 2010 [7 favorites]

Stealing a bike isn't exactly difficult. I doubt and would-be thieves would bother tagging it.
posted by schmod at 4:50 PM on June 20, 2010

When I used to park my bike at a train station, people would occasionally put strange things on it - usually in my big, honking bike basket, but on the handlebars wouldn't have been out of the range of possibility. Usually it was trash - I'd probably appreciate a hat.
posted by fermezporte at 6:55 PM on June 20, 2010

Sex joke. U bar, hat, bagel. The teenagers in our neighborhood do similar set ups on the way home from school every day. Usually it's a styrofoam cup impaled on the wrought iron fence.
posted by effluvia at 7:44 PM on June 20, 2010

Yeah, I'd probably just use spray paint if I was part of a bike theft crew that was sophisticated enough to have a van. Of course, I'd probably just skip the "tagging" and just steal bikes that looked valuable.
posted by gjc at 8:48 PM on June 20, 2010

Agreed, you're beanplating this. A thief marking something would use something innocuous like a rubber band or piece of tape, or wouldn't need any marker as he knows the location so well.
posted by Rash at 8:40 AM on June 21, 2010

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