[messengers] Bike Messenger Activism Is a Dangerous Path

Date: 13 Mar 2010 21:53:46 +0100
From: Joe Hendry <messvilleto@xxxxxxxxx>

Bike Messenger Activism Is a Dangerous Path


LA Downtown News, March 12, 2010



OPINION:DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - The Downtown Los Angeles bike
messengers are an oft-noticed part of the community. Notable for their ability
to weave in and out of traffic and their pedal pushing up Bunker
 Hill inclines, most people wouldn’t think of them as community


It is a pleasant surprise to learn that this group of
Downtowners has been on the front lines in attempting to thwart a growing area
problem: bike theft. As Los Angeles Downtown News reported last week, a group
of messengers who congregate around Second and Hope streets have, over time,
become an extra set of eyes at street level, and on multiple occasions have
confronted would-be bicycle thieves. In a few instances they have even managed
to recover bikes that had been pried away from their locks moments before.


The tactics of the messengers shocked some of the bandits.
In a couple instances, and in particular when the alleged thieves were
teenagers, not only did the messengers recover the bikes, but they engaged in a
sort of public shaming — the would-be burglars were left in their underwear. In
at least one case the youth’s clothes were then given to a mission in Skid Row.


It is a curious situation to say the least, and while we
wholeheartedly applaud the messengers for looking out not just for the
possessions of co-workers but for all in Downtown, this type of practice could
lead to an unfortunate turn of events. An ugly reality today is that too many
of those up to no good carry weapons. It does not require much imagination to envision
a situation in which the messengers attempt to apprehend someone with a stolen
bike, and for the thief to pull out a gun or a knife and use it. It has
happened before with seemingly lesser crimes — there have been publicized
incidents in Los Angeles
where people who verbally confronted graffiti vandals were shot.


We’re glad that the messengers are keeping their eyes open.
It sets a great example, and hopefully their actions will convince others to
maintain a wide gaze on the street. The police department urges vigilance, and
we agree. Downtown Los Angeles
benefits when all the stakeholders do their best to keep everyone else safe and


However, the physical confrontations seem to be a recipe for
a heartbreaking disaster. While citizen’s arrests are an honored tradition, a
safer solution would be for the messengers to work with LAPD, Business
Improvement District safety teams or other security officials on a way to
quickly bring in those most capable of handling thieves who might or might not
be armed. Other potential good Samaritans would be wise to hold back on the
bravado and instead whip out the cell phone and call 911 with a detailed
description of the perpetrators. Not that we think that would be as effective
as what is happening now. But it would be tragic for someone to get hurt.


What the messengers have done is great for the community,
but it is not prudent for this to become a permanent solution to the problem.
We don’t want anyone to get injured, or worse, over a bicycle.


Mess media Bryant Watch