There’s some inevitability in property crime such as The Daily News covered in a front-page story Monday.

The story focused on the theft of bicycles, but that’s just a subset of a larger body of common “petty” crimes that vex people in every city to varying degrees.

The paper could have added vehicle burglaries, thefts of things like lawnmowers and power tools from people’s garages and furniture from their backyards and decks.

The paper in the past has even written about East End residents being plagued by the theft of potted plants off their front porches, which was among the odder examples. Is there a market for hot geraniums?

The paper wrote once years ago about a rash of thefts of small statues, angels and the like, from cemeteries in the city, which, in an ironic twist, were sometimes turning up as decorations in East End backyards.

There are ways for residents to battle those sorts of crimes, some of which is just to do what the police always recommend — secure your bike with a good lock, lock your car when you leave, don’t leave things like cell phones and tablet computers visible in a car, lock your garage doors.

It’s also good to record serial numbers of things that are easily stolen and to register the serial numbers of bicycles with the city. Doing so gives the police at least an outside chance of recovering your property.

None of this, nor all of it applied universally, would eradicate property crime, of course, because there’s no overestimating how dedicated people can be to stealing or how much work some are willing to invest in theft.

The paper wrote once about a man who got up one morning to go to work and found the transmission had been stolen from his minivan while it was parked overnight in his driveway.

It takes talent, dedication and skill to do that in a couple of hours in the middle of night. Anybody who could pull it off could make an honest living, just didn’t want to.

But while there’s some inevitability in property crime, one thing residents shouldn’t do is just accept it as completely so.

It’s a stubborn problem, but not intractable, according to numerous case studies.

The University of California at Berkeley Police Department, for example, reduced property crime by 24 percent in part by using “bait bikes” to help catch bike thieves. The University of Texas Medical Branch has a similar program.

There’s a whole range of other tactics that have been successful in other places. The city of Liverpool, England, put locked gates on alleys and issued codes to restrict access to residents alone, for example, a method that The National Institute of Justice rated as effective.

The same was true for a juvenile diversion program tested in Michigan. Under the program, teens charged with delinquency and petty crimes were sentenced to community service, which was effective in reducing property crimes, according to the institute.

One thing that all these creative methods have in common is that they came about because residents, taxpayers, voters demanded that the government try something new to reduce the instances of property crime.

It might be that nothing would change even if people demanded property crime prevention and policing became a higher priority. That’s certain, however, if people just accept the problem as inevitable.

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206; michael.smith@galvnews.com

(5) comments

Bailey Jones

One deterrent to property crime is video surveillance. With the variety of relatively inexpensive high definition video camera systems available today I don't understand why every homeowner isn't using them. At the very least they give you a record of the thief that can help in his/her prosecution. I have a number of wireless battery powered cameras around our house connected to the cloud and my smart phone. They are perfect for installing in these old homes.

Bryan Manuele

Great article Mr. Smith! It has been said there is a solution to every problem. Hoping for better outcomes from the perspective of resignation in either case is rarely useful! Id also like to point out that there another piece and that may be to look inward. Im pretty sure that just about anyone who has given this and similar problems any thought can see there is a certain logical process in play here. Our Island its citizens and its representatives have made life very comfortable for the very population that think they can also help themselves to our personal property, bicycles and all. After all we provide affordable housing , free food, free same day medical care and very little concequences for their criminal behavior. Just perhaps we should also consider ways to make those who only take and not contribute less comortable and focus more on those who have and are helping to make Galveston a first class city, a safe clean desirable jewel on the coast.(to the reader, general disclaimer: please fill in your own exceptions to the above)

Jim Casey

Preventive measures are important, but they are not the only necessary step in reducing crime. Everyone applauds when a criminal is arrested. Most law-abiding people don't realize that suspects are usually out of jail within days. Months or even years later they may get a short jail term or probation. Meanwhile they have probably continued their criminal ways. The records of some suspects contains many arrests, convictions, or probation terms for a variety of crimes. Getting caught has to be a painful deterrent, not a minor inconvenience.

Wayne Holt

I had the same thought when reading the original story about having to accept crimes like bike theft as inevitable; why? If you're getting a lot of bike thefts, it's because the reward of a free bike is worth the low risk of negative consequences for some diseased minds. While welfare benefits may be open to criticism on another day, I think we can limit this discussion to criminal actions. After all, unless there is fraud involved, those collecting benefits do so within the law. Not so with thefts, break-ins and other crime. The "broken window" theory of community policing--that allowing small crime to flourish will lead to larger crimes being attempted--would suggest Galveston political leadership needs to decide that getting more of a law and order reputation for the city won't be the kiss of death for tourism. I believe Galveston police officers will work to enhance enforcement if that is the mission they're given. But in the absence of civilian direction to that effect, I will continue to lug around my New York City-level security lock, which weighs almost as much as my bike.

Charles Douglas

A bigger problem concerning this subject of law here is law in this country period. A little law here, a bigger amount there and no law over yonder! You can't legislate morality, values, and integrity. Think it's bad now? Wait a few more years. It's going to be and you can see it even now, father against son, mother against daughter, neighbor against neighbor! Look at DC NOW! [censored] rolls downhill! One of the most corrupt places on the planet is Washington DC where the Fecal Swamp System is firmly in place and has been for decades! It is mostly that reason why DJ TRUMP is catching Hell now. He was not bred in the swamp and was considered an outsider invading an area where he had no right to be in their minds! So what use to be against the law when Obama was POTUS, they want to disregard or repeal now under DJ TRUMP. If you pull the curtain, and look behind where the SWAMP is operating you will see powerful lobbying groups headed, my ex politicians working for foreign governments wheeling and dealing with loads of cash for bribes. You will see BILLIONAIRES like the Koch brothers, Opal Winfrey, and others who money owns, corrupting the system of law and law-making! On top of that we have the crazy PC culture trying to take over now! Can't say he or she no more! You are guilty in this country until proven innocent, and illegals have more rights here than American citizens who fought to keep it a free prospering society. It time for those who care, to standup while there is a country to stand up for! Oh, I'm gonna tell it like it is and say it like I ought! Somebody say AMEN to that!

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