I'm intrigued, have about 100 questions which I'm sure will provoke 100 more in my mind.
Feel free to ask them all. I love talking about it!
Any good links where I can learn more?
These are two really good starting points: Bitcoin FAQ Bitcoin Myths
and if you really want to blow your mind, read the original whitepaper: Whitepaper
For instance, how are the thefts and hackings "policed" since there is no central institution and participants are anonymous?
So, direct theft of Bitcoin is virtually impossible. In other words, it would take billions of years with current computing power to crack the cryptography to steal Bitcoins.
Most thefts are the result of:
1) Poor practice (i.e., someone storing their wallet file unencrypted on an unsecured computer. If an attacker gets control of your wallet file, then they can control the Bitcoins in that wallet)
2) Trust in third parties that shouldn't have been trusted. Some people have chosen to store their Bitcoin wallet with third party websites that essentially act as banks, and those sites have been hacked, resulting in the loss of the Bitcoins controlled by them.