I came across this question about how to deal with a bike thief who was caught in the act. To sum up, the OP caught a girl in the act of stealing his bike, stopped her, and got his bike back. His question is whether or not he should press charges.

My question is whether or not this is really on topic. It seems to me that the fact that what she was stealing was a bike is irrelevant. If she were attempting to steal a purse, briefcase, or whatever, it wouldn't change the nature of the question.

Given that view, I was surprised to see that the question had received half a dozen upvotes and quite a few answers with even more upvotes.

So what does everyone else think? On or off topic?

  • 1
    It's always worth examining these issues, and thanks for raising the question. Feb 5, 2013 at 0:19

2 Answers 2


I think that questions about bike theft are on-topic. That specific question is definitely on-topic. Neil Fein already thoroughly addressed it's on-topic-ness, so I won't go into that further.

I think that specific question is borderline "not constructive", and that's really the problem you're seeing with it. It's an okay question, but since it's asking about what to do after the fact, it's a question that will tend to get into a lot of opinions, debate, discussion and disagreement. Part of the problem is that it involves a lot of legal stuff that the people answering really aren't experts in at all and are probably making bad assumptions about. Part of the problem is that it's a question a lot of people are really interested in and likely to have opinions about.

  • I actually saw another question today that was closed as "not constructive" and it occurred to me that that was probably the core issue that was bugging me about it.
    – jimchristie Mod
    Feb 7, 2013 at 3:34
  • 1
    I agree that this isn't the best question; it's a discussion. Feb 9, 2013 at 20:43

Yes, I think they should remain on-topic. I think questions about bike theft - and theft prevention - are firmly on-topic, and I'll explain why:

  • Having a bike stolen isn't like having a purse or a briefcase, since purses and briefcases aren't vehicles. But I understand your point, and a more accurate comparison would be automobile theft. Having a bike stolen isn't anything like having a car stolen, since the police in many areas don't have the time to deal with bike thieves. The decision about whether to press charges and involve insurance companies is generally only a decision when bikes are involved; auto theft generally involves these entities by default.

  • Similarly, the methods of preventing bike theft aren't anything like securing a car. You need to tote a lock with you and find a good place to lock up. There's the sliding scale of a heavy lock and high security versus the convenience of a light but less-secure lock. And, of course, you can sidestep this by getting a folding bike and carrying it with you. Quick-release wheels make theft easier, but maintenance more difficult. And so on. Few of these really have close analogies to any other kind of theft prevention.

Also, if the community decides these questions are off-topic, where will these questions be asked? Turning these questions away is, essentially, turning them away from the entire Stack Exchange network. Possibly other sites could address the issues involved, but probably not as well. I'd like to see these questions answered by the experts on this site.

Since bike theft is a reasonably unique kind of theft, I'd like to see it remain on-topic here.

  • You're talking about theft prevention though, and I completely agree that that type of question should remain on topic. But this question is solely about dealing with the aftermath. And in that respect, a purse is a closer comparison than a car because no branch of the legal system is likely to help with either.
    – jimchristie Mod
    Feb 5, 2013 at 0:55
  • Actually, my answer covers both dealing with the aftermath of a theft as well as theft prevention. (Have done a little reformatting to make it apparent that these are two issues.) But I think one is simply an extension of the other, and that we should cover both. Feb 5, 2013 at 2:06
  • I guess I just don't see it that way. I see the prevention aspect as unique and relevant, but dealing with the aftermath as no different than any other theft. But that's why I opened it up to the community, so I could hear other people's opinions. I hope other people respond. Otherwise we're just two guys with differing opinions.
    – jimchristie Mod
    Feb 5, 2013 at 14:39
  • Fair enough. I hope the community responds to this. Feb 5, 2013 at 16:34
  • @jimirings - If nobody else puts up an answer against keeping these questions, you could always answer it yourself. At least people will have something to vote for aside from this answer. Feb 6, 2013 at 1:11

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