It seems that some enterprising criminals in LA have started to use rental ebikes to scan parking lots and do smash and grab style attacks and then use ebikes to make a quick escape. They seem to mostly be targeting large rental SUVs in tourist areas, as SUVs lack trunks to lock your valuables in. Ridesharing ebikes can be rented for as little as $1 an hour so as long as these criminals are able to make more than that through their criminal enterprises, it might be hard to stop. This article is why it is just incredibly stupid to use rental ebikes for your petty crimes, and also why ebikes also really make the ultimate urban getaway vehicles.
Every ridesharing ebike company out there has GPS trackers on their ebikes. This allows them to show app users the nearest bike available for rental. This GPS tracking system will not only show where the bike is originally rented, but also where it goes, and where it is left. If any police department was willing to spend the time to actually stop these crimes, that would be a lot of information to go on. It’s also only a matter of time before these rental bikes start having built-in cameras to track people who sabotage or vandalize the ebikes. The vandal problem has become one of epic proportions that threaten to destroy the entire industry. I don’t see an easy way to stop vandals other than doing something similar to Tesla’s sentry mode with hidden cameras all around to track what happens with the rental bikes and scooters.
Being a victim of a smash and grab totally sucks. When I was in my early 20’s I drove across the country in my 1979 Volvo 240DL with 250,000 miles on it with my computer and a 20′ monitor in the back seat. I was really into doing 3D animation and had made a bunch of videos I was going to show people all across the US. Boy was I nieve when I was young. I didn’t have any money so I lived out of my car and ended up in Portland working at a bookstore that a friend of mine (a guy we called Bookman) who had recently moved across the country. He was a quirky guy himself who had an encyclopedic knowledge which he would often recite in monotone while hanging out on our couch in our apt in Ithaca. He got run out of Ithaca for living out of his bookstore and decided that Portland would be more amenable to his extreme eccentricity. I stayed with him for several weeks working all night long and on my last night there I was headed back to my Volvo when I saw a shopping cart next to my car and someone was carefully unloading the computer equipment in my car into the shopping cart. I yelled loudly at the man and started chasing him. I chased him for several blocks and almost caught up to him and then while cutting across someone’s wet lawn I slipped and fell. I had second thoughts about what I was going to do when I caught this guy so I just gave up the chase. I went back to load my $3000 worth of computer equipment back into the car and got pretty sad when I saw the broken side window. It’s interesting to think about what would have happened if he had been on an ebike.
Ebikes are a good getaway vehicle because they go much faster than a person can run. They also can go places that cars really can’t go easily like on sidewalks and across parks. This combination means that they can evade police much more easily than any other kind of vehicle. In several NYC boroughs, they are plagued by locals on dirtbikes and ATV’s who show little regard for the laws. The police pretty much completely ignore them because for better or worse, they are just impossible to catch. Because they can go anywhere including sidewalks and parks they end up being more trouble than they are worth to catch.
In order to rent an ebike you have to have a phone with some kind of payment system and a credit card on file. Any rental of an ebike can easily be tracked back through that system, so if people are using these rental ebikes to commit crimes it seems like they will very easily get caught by ‘reverse payment tracking’ if they use their own credit cards. They could use the phones that they steal to rent bikes with, but most people nowadays lock their phones and unlocking a cellphone is beyond the capability of most small-time smash and grab thieves. Not only that, most ebike sharing programs require that you put in a credit card to unlock the bikes, so you would have to have access to a stolen credit card in order to activate the ebikes anonymously. I’ve had 3 laptops get stolen, and all of them have been stolen out of my car. None of the laptops have ever been recovered except one that I tracked down myself through Craigslist (the guy was selling it for $300). The laptop ended up getting kept by the police as ‘evidence’ even though it had a book I was writing on it about kiting. It was frustrating that the police would not budge on it, even when I begged them to. Being a victim of car theft is really no fun at all and can ruin any vacation you are enjoying.
If you’re a criminal or are considering a life of petty crime I can tell you that a lot of my friends growing up were petty criminals, I used to joke and tell everyone that I had “high friends in low places”. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that at best these people made about $5-10 an hour on average with their crimes and scams and most of them ended up in jail eventually. That $1000 laptop you stole from me? You’d be lucky to unload it for $300. Stealing bikes often leaves you in an awkward position of having to buy a charger so you can sell it without looking like a thief. The bad karma you collect by taking other people’s crap will eventually always catch up with you. It’s just the way that this universe works. Treat other people the way you want to be treated and you’ll find that the universe will pay you back in kind.