A photo of eyes is enough to deter bike thieves!

A photo of eyes is enough to deter bike thieves!

Bio-medical researchers at the University of Newcastle have discovered that posters showing staring eyes are enough to cut crime levels.

Science of crime

The study involved placing pictures of eyes alongside short anti-theft warnings above three bike racks across Newcastle. The scientists then recorded the changes in the number of bike thefts.

Over the course of a year bike thefts in the poster locations went down by 62 per cent. Interestingly, the number of bikes stolen in other areas of the city (where the posters weren't placed) went up by 63 per cent.

We can deduce that the crime was displaced directly from the "watched" locations to other supposedly "private" ones. Accordingly, the sensation of being looked at seems to be enough to deter potential thieves.

One of the chief researchers, Professor Daniel Nettle, confirmed that "this just adds to the growing evidence that images of eyes can have a big impact on behaviour... We care what other people think about us, and as a result we behave better when we feel we are being observed."


The researchers are hoping to repeat the experiment across a wider geographical scope, so that the findings can be put to use across the UK and further afield. 

The Netherlands in particular is famous for its high number of cyclists. This study could prove useful in Dutch cities, where police forces have already implemented various measures to reduce bike theft

The Newcastle scientists are currently in talks with police forces across the UK, as well as the British Transport Police. A representative of the BTP, Barry Sharp, praised the study, stating that, "we are always looking at new ways to tackle cycle theft at rail stations."

The British rail company C2C has already installed similar posters at bike racks on the line between London's Fenchurch Street and Southend Station in Essex. 

Source: Newcastle University

Elzi Lewis


Elzi Lewis

Elzi swapped rainy Manchester for (rainier) Amsterdam a year ago, and has never looked back. Having just finished an MA at the University of Amsterdam, she is both excited and...

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