(This article was originally published at Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)
Rohin Dhar writes:
While bike theft is an epidemic in major US cities, most people seem resigned that it’s just a fact of life. . . . at Priceonomics, we thought we’d take a crack at trying to reduce bike theft. Could we use software to help people fight back against bike thieves?
Professional bike thieves exist because they can make a profit. Luckily, this author went to business school and remembers exactly one equation from the experience:
Profit = Revenue – Cost
From a criminal’s perspective, the “Cost” of bike theft is about zero. The odds of getting caught are negligible and the penalty is about zero as well. Most commentators suggest that in order to prevent bike theft, the government should increase the penalties to make it a less attractive crime. As we stated earlier, we somehow doubt government intervention is going to happen any time soon.
We decided to focus on the revenue half of the equation. Could we make it harder for bike thieves to turn their contraband into cash? If you make it nearly impossible to sell a stolen bike, fewer bikes should get stolen because it’s more difficult to turn a profit. . . .
So that’s what we decided to build. A tool to help you track down your bike when it gets stolen and make it really hard for criminals to flip it for a profit by selling it online. A dragnet for stolen bikes.
What we’ve built is a search engine of almost every bike for sale on the web. If someone out there is trying to sell your stolen bike, you can catch them here:
If your bike is stolen in San Francisco and the thief is selling it in Los Angeles, now you have a way to find it. If they’ve stripped the bike down to its frame and are trying to auction it off, you can find it too. You can search on the site or set an alert and we’ll notify when bikes matching the description pop up. . . .
As people who love bicycles, we’re not very pleased with Craigslist and eBay. Bikes get stolen and then flipped for a profit on marketplaces like these. The whole reason bikes get stolen is because reselling them online is so easy to do.
So, we created an alternative marketplace for people that just want a nice place to buy and sell bikes. If the current marketplaces are cesspools of stolen bikes, then it would be nice if there were at least an alternative. A place where the community could prevent stolen bikes from being sold and just generally be excellent to each other. Here it is:
The harder you make it to profit from bike theft, the less prevalent this crime will be become.
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