How Your Cell Phone Can Help You…Take a Bite Out of Crime!

"Bike Theft!"

What do you do when your bike is stolen? Josh Zisson, bike accident lawyer and blogger over at, wrote about ways to plan ahead in the unfortunate event of bike theft, like documenting you bike and serial number or buying renter’s insurance to cover cost of your lost or stolen bicycle. While all of these suggestions are excellent, what do you do if (god forbid) you see your bike being stolen? Personally, I depend on the eyes and ears of my fellow citizen Neighborhood Watch volunteers to patrol the steets and fight bicycle theft with big ‘ol trusty CB radios:

That guy didn’t even have time to close the doors to his van! Talk about speedy police!

But it’s 2012, and when was the last time you volunteered to carry around a CB radio to report crime? Luckily, these days, people have cell phones, which makes calling the Police to report crime from anywhere very easy. But calling isn’t the only channel of communication at your fingertips to report crime. Did you know you could not only call, but text message or even tweet crime to the Police, say if someone was exposing themselves on the T?

In 2010, The MBTA Transit Police set up a twitter account for T riders to report crime. In a video interview with MyFOXBoston, MBTA General Manager Richard Davie talks about how T customers tweeted a photo of lewd behavior on the T of a man “who had exposed himself on the Red Line,” leading to an arrest.

But twitter isn’t just useful for reporting lewd behavior on the T, Davey says. The potential is great: “[Twitter could be used to report] smoking, fare evasion, or parking in bus stops.”

But why should the twitter fun end there? We’ve come a long way in the past 31 years since 1981, when “neighborhood watch” really did mean volunteers patrolling our streets with CB radios to communicate directly to law enforcement. But the beauty of cell phones paired with technology such as text messaging, phone cameras and twitter is that it effectively gives us a fast, easy way to communicate with law enforcement to not only share thoughts and news, but to report crime. Bicyclings Crime. What if you witnessed a crime or accident involving a bicycle? or bike lane? Well if it’s an emergency, you should probably call 911. But what if you witnessed bicycle theft?

Has it occured to you that twitter could also be used to report and spread the word about bicycle theft? Or bicycle accidents,  parking in bike lanes, bicycle and driver collisions/interactions, or bicycle kicks? And that’s just the beginning, imagine the possibility! In fact, across the great Atlantic over in the UK, twitter’s being paired with a smartphone app for victims of bike theft to upload photos and spread the word about their stolen bicycles, in the same way Boston’s stolen bike registry helps spread the word.

While MBTA Police encourages tweeting, I could not find information from Boston Police offering it as an option, so I tweeted Boston Police today asking specifically if it was,

and am anxiously awaiting reply.

Given that the MBTA used twitter to help catch the perv on the T before they even considered encouraging the public to report transit crime on twitter, I’d say it’s safe to say that anything crime-related tweeted to BostonPD will be taken seriously.

Minnie Marth in 1981 taught us how to take a bite out of crime with her trusty CB radio.  Thankfully, you don’t need to tune into a police channel and shout “bike theft!” into a CB radio anymore to report crime. These days, reporting bike theft can be as easy as tweeting a photo of a bike thief to #biketheft @Boston_Police or @MBTAtransitPD. Or texting Crime Stoppers (27463). Yes, fellow citizen bicyclists, don’t forget, that you too, with your trusty cell phone, have the power at your fingertips to take a bite out of (bicycle) crime! But don’t forget: in a real emergency, these channels are no subsitute for calling 911.


This entry was posted in Advocacy. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *