Story Idea: How Easy is it to Steal Bikes on Your Campus?

In a reporting experiment of sorts late last month, a student at Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University brazenly “stole” a bicycle in public, in broad daylight, in four locations including WLU’s campus.

The purpose, in part, reporter-thief Alanna Fairey shared in The Cord student newspaper, was to answer this question: “What would you do if you saw someone stealing a bike by the use of bolt cutters?  In a big open space with plenty of people, you’d assume someone would stop them; but as The Cord discovered on Mar. 26, that’s not exactly the case.  I am not the kind of person that would even steal a chocolate bar, let alone a bicycle. However, as an experiment, I went to several different locations in Waterloo to ‘steal’ a friend’s bike, just to see if others would try and stop me.  And the results were shocking.”

The staged report reminds me of a similar faux bike theft attempt featured in mid-March in The New York Times.  In both cases, the most common bystander reactions were purposeful ignorance or lighthearted curiosity, nothing more.  (See Kitty Genovese murder.)

As Fairey writes, “After my bike stealing adventures, I can conclude that it is relatively easy to steal a bike in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. People will stare and possibly ask questions, but no one confronted me aggressively or threatened to report me to the police.”


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