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Old 03-19-06, 12:03 PM   #1
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To Catch A Thief!

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 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.
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Old 03-19-06, 12:33 PM   #2
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Great job. I hate bicycle thiefs. You did us all a favor. We owe you.

Two wheels good. Four wheels bad.
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Old 03-19-06, 12:54 PM   #3
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bravo! bravo!
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Old 03-19-06, 01:05 PM   #4
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Many kudos
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Old 03-19-06, 02:19 PM   #5
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Old 03-19-06, 03:01 PM   #6
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Good job....
Just make sure this guy doesn't come back to haunt you after he gets out.....(an idea from a recent film I saw)

Last edited by roadfix; 03-19-06 at 05:39 PM.
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Old 03-20-06, 11:43 AM   #7
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Had two bikes stolen in Japan. Stolen by none to bright kids too who parked them behind the police station. My friend was swearing up and down how he was going to get even with whoever did this for days until the police got them and the mothers had to bring their sons over to our apartment to apologize. Funny thing is the kids didn't know we were gaijin (foreigners, or American) and freaked out when my friend opened the door. He was pretty broke up over all his words of the past few days when he saw those kids shaking and there mothers apologizing profusely. Bikes weren't worth much and were heavier than anything but it was good to get them back anyway.
Sunrise saturday,
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Old 03-21-06, 12:35 PM   #8
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I'm very lucky to have a LBS with great customer service. It's run by only 3 full time and 1 part time employees. They have a very loyal customer base who hang out at the shop and help other customers when it gets crowded. One day three of the "bar flies" were hanging out in the parking lot and yacking away when one noticed a guy walk out with a Fox fork. He said, "Hey, got yourself a nice fork!" and they walked over to check it out. The guy seemed nervous and one of the regular customers noticed he had no receipt. It's a store policy that whenever anyone buys something that's too big to put in a bag, they tape the receipt to the purchase (the fork in this case, if he had paid for it). Seeing that there was no receipt taped to the fork, the guy asked for the receipt and when he said the shop didn't give him one, he instantly knew the guy had lifted it. He yanked the fork out of his hands and demanded that the guy empty his pockets. He was wearing those baggy cargo pants. When the guy refused, the regular customer guy (who's a big Samoan dude) took him by the hood of his sweatshirt and dragged him back into the shop. Turns out the shoplifter had tons of items in his pockets but it was the fork that got him caught. Lucky for the shop that these regular customers were in the parking lot and knew about the receipt-taped-to-the-purchase routine.
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Old 03-21-06, 12:53 PM   #9
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I thought I did eveything right to discourage thieves. I bought a old Schwinn World Sport bike from the seventies for fifty dollars. I cleaned it up and added only new tires-nothing else. The black paint job had very little rust on it (I left it alone on purpose). I locked it during the day using a combination of heavy U lock to the frame and a cable lock to wrap the wheels and saddle to a heavy iron fence embedded into concrete, in a busy shopping center with heavy amounts of pedestrian and motor traffic, in front of the Kentucky Fried Chicken with large windows. And guess what? Someone still tried to smashed the U lock for a old bike! He/she used a heavy object (possibly a brick?) to do the job. My father took a over an hour to slowly work the damaged lock off. No one stopped to question what he was doing. He turned to me and told me that this is not working, get another bike. So I turned to folders. At least the bike is with me at all times. It may not be 100% theft proof, but it is close.
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Old 03-21-06, 01:10 PM   #10
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Heres an old post I made:

I gotta send a big thanks to Valley Bicycles for putting serial numbers on all their receipts. I am so glad after all this time, I still saved it, along with the owners manual and the police report. Well heres the story.

I got a brand new 2002 Trek Y-26 mountain bike a few years ago. I rode it only a couple of times. I go to the Braves vs Dodgers games every time the Braves come into town. So on 5-15-03 my bike was stolen, a neighbor saw someone leaving riding one back with my bike over their shoulder. shows their strength. Usually they lock them up somewhere and come back in a truck to retrieve them. So I figured its gone, I make the police report and carry the book and receipt in my car for a while in case I see it.

Fast forward to late 05. A friend asks for a ride to Centinela Feed for her pet stuff. So we go, then I was gonna run errands. Shes at the checkout counter and this old middle eastern guy rides up and locks a bike up in front of me. I say to Alice, that looks like my bike. The seats missing and has a different one because I have the seat brand new at home. The bar ends I bought are still on it, and the mount where my Cat Eye light goes is still there. I come back in and tell her i'm sure its mine. I try to ask the guy where he got it, but no speaka da engrish. So I said whatever. He leaves. We drive south when shes done and there he is, walking it, hes so tired. So we follow him and I call LAPD, and theres the guys house. So the PD guys show up and do a report and impound the bike. He says his son, coincidentally, hes in NY, bought it 2 years ago downtown. Tonight I go to wesside PD and show my proof of ownership via receipt with the serial number written on it by the store, owners manual, PD report when it was stolen .

Funny thing is, I was gonna sell the seat on ebay and mention that maybe you stole my bike and need the seat, or that person stole your seat to and make a few bucks. Glad I had kept it. I carried that receipt and manual in my car for months looking for my bike.


I cleaned and polished the bike up and it looked great as you can see above. Turned out that the guys kid had bought it downtown. They had hardly ridden it, and left it in their garage, tires still looked new. I put the new seat/post back on and photo'd it. I sold it on ebay and it went for $415. I was stunned it went for more than the receipt. I traded 100 bucks and a camera for it. I got my light mount back for my other mtb, pocketed some cash that I added to it which allowed me to get my Ti Airborne. If you live or visit LA, you will know that the odds of seeing something stolen from you is nil, its so big of a city, your stuff could be anywhere. Big props to bike dealers. Had they not filled out all the info on that receipt, i'd never have gotten it back. The cops at the station all thought I was a lucky hero, they know how rare getting something back in the same condition is.

Wells heres the new toy since I have another MTB.

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