Bicycle theft can be significantly reduced by placing large photos of staring eyes above bike racks, research by Newcastle University has found.
The two-year experiment, which was conducted on campus grounds, resulted in a reduction in theft of 62%. And there was also a noticeable difference in places without the signs, where bike theft went up by 63%, suggesting that the crime had been displaced to other locations, rather than eliminated.
For the first year the team monitored the level of bike theft at all racks across campus for a control figure. Then they placed the signs in three locations, leaving the rest of the racks without signs. They then monitored the whole lot again for a year to observe the impact on levels of crime.
In a previous study in 2006 the same scientists looked at the impact of images of eyes on contributions to an honesty box in a tea room. They found that people put nearly three times more money in the box when there were eyes compared with flowers. Then in 2010 they found people were more likely to clean away their tray after a meal when there were eyes watching them.
Lead author of the paper, Professor Daniel Nettle, said: “We think that the presence of eye images can encourage co-operative behaviour.”
The scheme has proved so successful that the British Transport Police are trialling it with train Company C2C on a route between Fenchurch Street Station in London and Southend in Essex.
A spokesperson for cycle insurance specialists ETA said; “It may be that a particular type of thief operates on a university campus and it will be fascinating to see if the posters are as effective in the wider world.”