I spent part of lunchtime today supervising near the school's rows of bike racks. We've had a bit of theft from this area since school began, and I've sometimes thought about radical ways of curbing the problem. (My tendency toward radical solutions, of course, brought about by some of the books I've been reading lately, including The Power of Less by Leo Babauta and In Pursuit of Elegance by Matthew E. May.) One of the less elegant, obvious solutions include caging the bike racks, overmonitoring them, and opening them only at dismissal; but it takes manpower, it takes time, it creates additional procedures and policies, and it's difficult from the standpoint that our campus has about three different dismissal times for various subgroups of students. Another inelegant solution involves video cameras; but those are expensive, require footage monitoring, and are more reactive than proactive (the presence of cameras doesn't stop people as much as we'd like to think).
The inherent problem with theft is that the true violation of law isn't a physical one, it's a psychological one. The second most elegant solution to theft is a state of mind: "That item does not belong to me, therefore I must not touch it." Were everyone like minded (or even mentally conditioned) in this regard, one would be able to park his bike anywhere he were allowed, unlocked, only to find it unmolested and untouched at the end of the day . . . or even the next day.
I heard a story once--one that I'm sure isn't true--about an American aerospace worker doing some consulting work in Turkey. On his walk back to his hotel one night, he sees a paper bag in the middle of the sidewalk. He kicks it off to the side, and out spills piles of cash. Thinking this isn't something that should just be laying about, he takes it to the local authorities and explains how he found it--only to find himself dragged into a side room where they remove his shoes and cut off his big toe. When it's over, he demands to know why he has been treated this way. The police chief replies, "It was not your bag to kick."
Of course, my elegant solution to theft--touch only what is yours, or what you have permission to touch--is already part of a social contract that few pay any attention to anymore. And while others are looking at cages, locks, and video cameras, I'm trying to find a way to combat several hundred years of "ignore your fellow man" conditioning.
For the most elegant way of solving theft, in my opinion, try looking HERE.