In earlier eras, government and law enforcement agencies utilized tools such as fingerprinting, security camera footage, and DNA analysis to catch criminals. More recently, metadata captured by various Internet of Things devices have been used to put lawbreakers behind bars. In fact, earlier this week a bank robbery suspect was arrested because of his unorthodox and laughable choice of getaway vehicle; one of Jump’s electrical scooters.
Late last year, a young man police believe to be Luca Mangiarano robbed an Austin, Texas bank. Allegedly, Mangiarano walked into the bank, presented a teller with a note demanding money and quickly sped off with some cash on an electric scooter; an easily identifiable bright red scooter with a maximum speed of around 15 mph and a built-in GPS tracker.
Jump, which is a subsidiary of Uber, requires users to disclose their names, addresses and credit card information to ride. With a court order, the Austin police were given access to Jump data that identified Mangiarano as the possible perpetrator. Further investigation also uncovered data from the “Millennial Dillinger’s” smartphone that placed him in the area of the crime scene on the day the robbery was committed.
Absurdly, this is not the first time someone has committed a crime using a scooter.
The Improbable Wave of E-Scooter Crime
Last September, an Indianapolis man had his home burglarized by a thief who escaped via an electric scooter. The crook stole Michael Leppert’s laptop, wallet, and backpack while Leppert showered. The high-tech thief made a low-powered getaway on what was later identified as a Bird scooter.
A Bird scooter was also used in an August armed robbery. While sitting at a park bench, a local man was approached by a gun-wielding man on a Bird. The robber stole the man’s phone and ditched his scooter at the scene. Similarly, an Ohio Bird user actually evaded police in November after being spotted ignoring a stop sign by ditching his ride.
The Potential and Challenges of E-Scooting
While the spate of recent e-scooter related crimes is hilarious, it might represent a big problem for the companies that currently dominate that space.
The use of personal mobility devices has been growing in major cities across the country because of their affordability and convenience. For those living in warm weather, urban environments, taking a Bird somewhere is not just cheaper than hailing an Uber, it might be faster too. And their energy efficiency and lack of emissions make them appealing to the environmentally conscious (thieves).
Because the service they offer is easy to access, innovative and useful, companies like Bird have received billion-dollar valuations. The remarkable success of the personal mobility sector has even inspired carmakers like Ford and GMC to invest big money in developing their own e-bikes.
However, before e-scooters can realize their destiny as the solution to urban gridlock and pollution, makers and rental companies need to address a few problems. They are going to need to ensure riders wear helmets and obey traffic laws to assuage safety concerns. And they need to ensure that riders are not parking their rides illegally to pacify business owners and homeowners.
Also, Big Scooter may need to create devices that remotely stop their vehicles to stop the rise of horrifying but kind of adorable e-scooter gangs.