IT TAKES A COMMUNITYTO FIND A STOLEN BIKE
A report released earlier this year stated that Vancouver residents alone had reported over 10,000 bike thefts in just 4.5 years. The Internet is full of statistics on bike theft – worldwide, a bike is stolen every 90 seconds and only 2.4% are returned to their owners. The question now is not so much if
your bike will be stolen, but when.
According to the Vancouver Police Department’s website, in the summer months an average of nine bikes are stolen every day – an average of 2000 every year. ‘On the flipside, the VPD recovers roughly 2000 bicycles in a year. Unfortunately, the majority of them will never be returned to their owners, as their serial numbers have not been reported to police, making them untraceable. These bikes will end up at auction, but we'd rather return them to their rightful owners.’
|It was a downer to go pick it up at VPD property. They have a few thousand unclaimed bikes sitting there.- Andrew Major|
What isn’t included on the website is that even if you report your serial number with your stolen bike there is a of margin human error that has to be accounted for. With the variable length and alphanumeric make-up of serial numbers it can be challenging to accurately document them with the number of hands they must pass through. They first must be recorded perfectly by you, then by the officer taking your file, followed by any officer calling it when a potential stolen bike is found, and finally by the Stolen Properties clerk who logs it in. It’s one big game of telephone and we all know how that usually works out – your serial number is now ‘big purple elephant.’
There is, however, a human element that can also help find our bikes - our community. Earlier this year Andrew Major had both his bikes stolen from his secure storage in his building. He will tell you that it was his mistake for temporarily housing his bikes there, but the thieves hot-wired the garage door, made their way through the main steel door, and cut the locks to each of the storage units. It was the first break-in in his building in ten years. Andrew, feeling more “gut-punched and shocked than pissed at first,” immediately called the RCMP (police) who took his report over the phone. He then made a Facebook post noting the visually unique and identifiable parts of his bikes; including a Custom Toxik Harold paint job and Ohlins fork (not pictured). He also set up an automatic search on Craigslist – “from which I continue to get emails of other people’s obviously stolen bikes every day.”
|I assumed I'd never see them again. I know a few people who've gotten bikes back but not many.- Andrew Major|
Meanwhile, JL Russell logged into Facebook to watch his daily selection of cat videos and saw Andrew’s post. It was still in the back of his mind when he spent a day downtown later that week. “As I was walking into the Art Gallery I noticed a guy on a bike that immediately caught my eye. I looked at the bike and thought, nice paint job, even got the stem custom painted to match; nice touch. An Ohlins fork? I've never actually seen that in real life. Then I looked up at the dude and thought, he looks maybe a little too sketchy to be on something that thought out. That and the fact that those forks weren't even available to buy yet, I pretty much immediately knew he was on a stolen bike.”
After JL realized that it might be Andrew’s bike he started running – hard! He caught up with the guy and had another look at the bike, he checked Facebook on his phone and confirmed that it was without a doubt one of the bikes that had been stolen from Andrew. “Funny enough, though, I kept really questioning myself through the whole ordeal. It really just seemed too easy. Like oh, there's Andrew's bike right there. No worries!”
JL followed the guy and the bike until he sat down in a park and that’s when he called the police. Having undercover officers all over the downtown core, they arrived in less than three minutes.
|I hadn't expected to get anything back and this was huge! JL is the f*cking man! I've heard more than a few stories of guys getting calls or texts to the effect of 'dude, I saw your bike roll by today,' but JL went out of his way and go mine bike. That's huge!- Andrew Major|
The bike had been stripped – a set of old Chris King hubs built into silver Velocity Blunt 35 rims were gone and a bunch of other parts had been replaced. The most upsetting part for Andrew was that they had been replaced with parts from at least five other stolen bikes; “that was a piss off.”
A very similar story took place just last month in Bellingham, Washington. Paris Gore was eating lunch with a group of friends when his bike was taken out of the back of their truck. "We were sitting across the street at a diner, it couldn't have taken more than a second. Whoever did it was good because we had a pretty good eye on the truck at almost all times," said Paris. Like Andrew, Paris immediately called the police and then posted a photo and description of the stolen bike on Facebook; including the bright yellow colour and custom American flag Evil decals.
Eric Brown happened to be driving home from a day of trail-building a week after seeing Paris' post on Facebook when a neon yellow bike caught his eye. He did a lap around the block to get a better look, “I could tell that the Evil stickers had been taken off and some sketchy looking dude was sitting on it.” Eric did a third lap around the block to triple check and called 911. He then called a friend, Chris Pascucci, to join him for support and Paris, who was out of the country, to verify details of the bike. They followed the guy and bike to an apartment building nearby while on the phone with the police. Eric then got out of his truck and confronted them, saying, “That yellow bike sitting in your yard is my buddy’s and I’m on the phone with the cops right now.” When the police arrived they took the bike but were unable to press charges; the guy claimed he bought it on Craigslist for $500 and he had no idea it was stolen.
|We weren't 100% sure it was Paris' bike until we flipped it over and saw the Long Live Chainsaw sticker on the top tube.- Eric Brown|
"I was feeling pretty ecstatic, I actually had just gotten off the phone with an insurance investigator about my bike when Eric called." Paris was in the middle of a photo shoot and had gotten reception for the first time in a few days when his phone rang; "Eric doesn't call me often, and I just had a feeling it had something to do with my bike." The only damage to the bike when Paris picked it up from the police was a disconnected seat post dropper and the peeled off custom decals. "I feel lucky to live in a good community of people who were immediately on the lookout for my bike."
Paris went on to point out the importance of taking the right steps when you think you see a stolen bike. "There's actually a guy in town here that rides the same colour Evil Insurgent around town. He doesn't fit the typical mountain biker look as he usually wears his painter's clothes. Unfortunately, he gets heckled a lot because people think he stole the bike as it seems out of place, but he really does own the bike. I felt really bad when mine got stolen because more people would be on the lookout, and I'm thankful that no one did anything stupid to him; as much as people talk about assaulting thieves with stolen bikes we have to remember that there are people out there like this guy, and I can't imagine what would happen if someone threw a punch over the bike. I ended up posting a picture and description of him on his bike just so people knew not to mess with him."
This in no way is a call for vigilante justice – but a reminder that we are all in this together, and we have a responsibility to our community to not to look the other way when something doesn’t feel right. JL, Eric and Chris all went above and beyond and I don’t advocate that anyone else should engage with a potential bike thief (because they may not be), but do your part. Keep your eyes open and call the police.
|Community is so important for combating bike theft. Without a network of people sharing information and keeping an eye out, we'd be in more trouble for sure. You've got to look out for your neighbour and friends! Andrew's was the third stolen bike I've gotten back for someone I know and it feels great! Every time it worked out because of sharing photos online and putting the word out.- JL Russell|