Okay, we've all heard, and some of us experienced, the gut-wrenching stories of people getting their bikes stolen. Lets hear some good news. Let's hear stories about bike theives being thwarted or even caught, arrested and hopefully sent somewhere where they won't see the light of day for a long, long time.
I'll start with a story of my own.
A few years ago I was working as a wrench at a LBS when this guy, early 20s, kind of scrawny but otherwise non-descript, walks into the shop with a backpack on and carrying a bike over his shoulder. The bike was a Bianchi Campione with Campy Athena and a shop built (non-stock) rear wheel with a flat tire. First this guy said that he was on his way to take the train to San Bernadino (Calif), that he was in a hurry and then asked if I wanted to buy the bike for $300. MAJOR alarm bells went off. I declined the offer to purchase obviously stolen property, while my mind is working on the problem of how to delay this guy and call the cops. He solves this problem for me by asking me that if I wouldn't buy the bike, would I fix the flat. Sure I would.
I put the bike in the stand, pull the rear wheel out (so the guy will less likely to run off with the bike if he gets spooked) and instantly turn into the most incompetant mechanic I could possibly be. Carrying the rear wheel with me, I non-chalantly get on the phone and call the cops. I got a stolen bike here I tell them. "What's the serial number" they ask. Trying to be subtle, with this "customer" wandering around the shop, I turn the bike over in the stand and check the number. D'oh! the cable guide is in the way.
"I can't get the number", I tell the gal at the police dispatch, "but trust me, this thing is stolen!"
"Without a serial number, we're not going to respond...'bye."
What to do next? I can't just let this guy go. We have only one Bianchi dealer in our small town, so I call them up. "Anyone report a stolen Campione lately?" I ask.
"Yep, the guy was in here the other day."
"Did it have a Mavic Open Pro CD on the rear?"
"Yea, we built that wheel for him last year." That's the nice thing about small towns: we don't just know what bikes our customers ride, but what wheels too.
I call the police again. "Look, I can't get the serial number without scaring this guy off," I tell them while still carrying the rear wheel. "You gotta get someone over here."
Now they took me a little more seriously. "We'll send someone over....as soon as possible."
Relieved, I hang up the phone and go about fixing this flat slowly...oh, so slowly. How long can I drag this out? Now, while I'm doing this, I'm the only one in the shop so I'm trying to keep an eye on this guy too. I'm secretly wishing for another customer to come in so I can get their help distracting this guy, but no luck.
15 minutes...30 minutes...45 minutes go by! Sheesh, I'm wondering when this guy is going to get wise? I'm stalling fixing this flat for over an hour now!
Finally, the police show up. One walks in the back door while the other comes the front. One comes over to talk to me while the other goes over to talk to the "customer". Now, finally, I can pull off the cable guide on the bottom bracket and read the serial number. The policeman calls it in on his radio right there. The dispatch must have suspected which bike this might be because the reply came back right away. Yep, it's stolen!
They cuff the guy right there in the shop and read him his rights! Cool, they're taking this seriously. The police impound the bike and off they go, with me glowing the whole time.
I check the local paper's police blotter the next day for mention of the arrest. Nothing. Nothing the next day either, nor the next. After a week an article appears in the local section, top of the fold, page B-1. Seems this bike was stolen as part of a burglery, a burglery that saw a whole lot more than just a bike being stolen. I gathered from this list in the paper that the house was pretty much cleaned out of anything valuable and the backpack this guy was carrying was full of stolen cameral equipment. The guy arrested in my shop had plead guilty and was going away, but not to California. The best part was in the fourth or fifth paragraph, though. It mentioned that the thief was caught thanks to "an alert bicycle shop employee".
Man, was I ever glad they didn't use my name.