12 October 2008

Bike Theft: La Prueba de la bicicletta

An Argentine artist, Mariano Pasik, has embarked on a fascinating project mixing video art and bicycle theft. He leaves cheap, unlocked bicycles in various neighbourhoods and films them with a hidden camera. He wants to see how long the bicycle can stand there until it is stolen. The film above is about the project.

He emphasises that he doesn't do it to reveal bicycle thieves - he blurs their faces - but rather to gain an idea of how safe the different neighbourhoods are. His hypothesis is - the longer the bicycle remains untouched, the safer the neighbourhood.

He's aiming to make a "bike theft index", inspired by The Economist's 'Big Mac Index'. He puts the video footage, complete with lovely music, of the bike thefts on his website La Prueba de la bicicleta - The Bicycle Trial.

"You can tell from the videos that these aren't professional thieves. These aren't people who left home with intention to steal. It is people who succomb to a temptation and decide to commit a crime. They become thieves first at that moment they steal the bike", says Mariano Pasik.

8 minutes before it's nicked. And by another cyclist.

The results are varied in the videos. Sometimes it takes a couple of minutes before the bike is nicked, sometimes over an hour. So far all the thieves are men. If the bike remains untouched for an hour the neighbourhood 'passes the bike theft test'.

All in all it's fascinating psychology in action.


njh said...

He seemed pretty knowledgable about stealing the bike - scouting, and then riding off with the bike in tow. I think he might have done it before you know.

Kevin Love said...

The Toronto police do exactly the same thing. Except they then arrest the thief.

This approach successfully led to the arrest of Toronto's notorious bicycle theft kingpin, Igor Kenk. An unfortunate part of having a bicycle culture is having a notorious bicycle theft ringleader.

At least the police got him and seized 2,865 stolen bicycles of which 469 were returned to their rightful owners.

The police operation continues, with lesser theives being caught all the time.