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Is this a common thing, and if so, what is the motivation behind it?

When I went to unlock my bicycle this morning, when I touched the U-Lock, it basically fell apart. It looks like someone used a hacksaw and cut through it. If it had been half-cut, I might think someone interrupted them (but even that is unlikely since you just need to say, 'I've lost my key!'). But in this case, it was completely cut. I had a cable around the tires as well, but it was all connected to the U-lock; so it was completely unsecured as soon as they cut the U-lock.

This was in a parking garage with many bicycles.

Do bicycle thieves 'prep' bicycles and then return later to steal them all at once? I was gone for two weeks, so I have no idea how long it has been cut. I'm mostly just scratching my head wondering why anyone would do all the work, and then leave the bicycle?

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7  
This has been known. Did your bike have another lock on it? Perhaps they didn't have the right gear on them to cut the second lock? If that is the case, most likely they plan on coming around again tonight, with the right gear. My advice is to move the bike - make it difficult for the thief to just walk up and find the bike, and also to replace the broken lock. They possibly assumed that you wouldn't visit your bike between first and second visits. When replacing the broken lock, I know good locks can be expensive, but a lock is no good whatsoever if someone can just hacksaw through it. –  PeteH Mar 24 at 12:33
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I'd say the most likely explanation is they were interrupted just as they finished cutting. You lucked out, but I would assume they'll be back and obviously they can cut the lock you had. –  Carey Gregory Mar 24 at 14:37

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

According to campus police reports (apparently backed by video surveillance), an organized gang of bike thieves operates in my area using techniques like this. They use the following system:

  • A few "spotters" stroll around the campus and pick out the $1500+ bikes.

  • An hour or so later, a different thief, dressed in coveralls etc. comes by and cuts the locks with appropriate tools. He then walks away, leaving each bike with a cut lock.

  • An hour or so later, a third group of thieves comes round to collect the bikes. They put away the cut locks exactly like a rider would put away a lock they own, so that it appears to onlookers that they are the owner. They then ride off.

So apparently at least some of the more sophisticated thieves will go to the trouble of separating the cutting from the theft, if they know they are under surveillance.

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It's entirely possible, as suggested in the comments, that the perp was simply interrupted. However from my own experience, I think your speculation about the bikes being prepped is at least as plausible, if not more.

A while ago, we were plagued for months by bike thefts. We regularly found sawed-off pieces of bike locks, scattered in the area around our apartment. We would often spot "new" bikes, often multiple at a time, with their locks cut open. A few days later the bikes were gone, only to be replaced by new bikes with locks cut open.

The most frustrating part was that we knew who did it. I've caught several of them red-handed a couple of times, parking their bikes with cut-up locks in the area, before walking back to their house.

The police knew about it and frequently checked the address, but the perps were clever enough to keep the stolen goods off the property of their home. They even had the nerve to park their bikes used for transportation (with locks cut open) in our property's bike shed, and walk home from there.

More of an anecdotal answer than a definitive one. Sorry :)

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