Crime Prevention

Bike Thefts and Neighborhood Characteristics in DC

Nancy La Vigne
Director of the Justice Policy Center, Urban Institute

Key Findings

  • The amount of bike thefts around Metro stations is positively influenced by the number of potential targets and amount of potential offenders.
  • Stations that have more guardianship, more nearby business, are less likely to experience bike theft.


In the article, “A Case Study of Bicycle Theft on the Washington DC Metrorail System Using a Routine Activities and Crime Pattern Theory Framework,” La Vigne and her co-authors applied routine activities and crime pattern frameworks to case studies of bicycle theft on the DC Metrorail. The authors gathered their information using data from the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority Metrorail (Metro) annual census. The data helped the researchers to determine the relationship between bike thefts and neighborhood characteristics and risk factors. The findings revealed that bike thefts around Metro stations are influenced by the number of potential targets, measured as the amount of bikes per station, and the amount of potential offenders, measured by the amount of auto-related larcenies. A protective factor in ‘guardianship,’ measured by the amount of business around the Metro station, decreases the likelihood of bike theft.

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