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Vigilante justice for a stolen bike.
September 10, 2008 2:09 PM   Subscribe

My lovely bike was stolen from a pretty large apartment complex this weekend, most likely by a neighbor who shares our small courtyard. Other than moving out promptly, is there anything I can do to assuage my anger about this?

My women's hybrid bike is my transportation to classes and the lab during the day. Sometimes I take it inside when I get home, but when I feel very tired I lock it on the railing just outside of our front door on the second floor. This Sunday morning, the bike was missing from our porch, and I found the bike lock cut in half underneath the staircase.

Our apartment is facing a small courtyard, shared with maybe 20-30 other apartments, so whoever wanted my bike must be living right here. I am very upset about this, but other than checking ads for used bikes on Craigslist, is there anything I can do?

I plan to file a police report as soon as I have time to do so, but was also thinking of distributing flyers with a picture of the bike and something along the lines of "Did your neighbor acquire (my) new shiny bike this weekend?"--is this a good idea, and could it help in any way, other than making me feel better?

Also, our friends' apartment in the same complex was broken into through a closed window about a month ago, while they were sleeping in their bedroom. Our friend actually woke up to a burglar going through her stuff, and started yelling at him, at which point he fled through the front door which he had conveniently left open. The apartment managers promised to issue crime alerts to the entire complex, but, of course, haven't done anything of the sorts. Are they under obligation to actually follow through with what they promised? The security patrol here is useless, and there is no way we--or anyone who lives here--should tolerate another rent increase.
posted by halogen to Law & Government (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Put up your own signs. It's all you can do. Did your friends make a police report? Could they identify the burglar?

Make a police report NOW. They're not going to show up and take pictures a la CSI. THey'll usually take a statement over the phone.

Do you have the serial # and model # for the bike? That's the only useful thing you can tell the police, in case they recover it.

(I had a camera smash-and-grabbed from my car, in front of my house, a few years ago.)
posted by notsnot at 2:20 PM on September 10, 2008


Wow, that sounds awful.

I don't think it would hurt to distribute the fliers, but you can't necessarily assume it was one of your neighbors.

It could have easily been someone who visited a friend there once, someone who did a delivery to the building, someone who did a repair there, etc.

Unless of course your building has security so that no one can get into the courtyard, in which case I wonder if they have videotapes of activity, or if your courtyard is really secure.

I would also check to see if your keys allow you to get into the other courtyards in the complex, that is something that you could get fixed.

Do you have bars on your windows?

I wouldn't tolerate another rent increase either, but I don't think you can keep the management from raising rent. Generally you protest rent increases by moving out.

Sorry this happened to you.
posted by sondrialiac at 2:22 PM on September 10, 2008


I plan to file a police report as soon as I have time to do so, but was also thinking of distributing flyers with a picture of the bike and something along the lines of "Did your neighbor acquire (my) new shiny bike this weekend?"--is this a good idea, and could it help in any way, other than making me feel better?

This is a good idea. A bike thief is probably an asshole in other ways as well and you're really tapping into latent irritation other people will have against him or her.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:22 PM on September 10, 2008


Our apartment is facing a small courtyard, shared with maybe 20-30 other apartments, so whoever wanted my bike must be living right here.

I'm not sure I understand why you think that would be true. Theives come from all over- sometimes they even break into houses that don't belong to them to steal stuff.

"Did your neighbor acquire (my) new shiny bike this weekend?"--is this a good idea, and could it help in any way, other than making me feel better?

To accuse your neighbors of theft with absolutely no evidence? No, it is not a good idea and won't help in any way. You should certainly spread the word to your neighbors about your bike, though, because they'll probably want to be more careful about their own things, and they could keep a lookout around the neighborhood for your bike.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:33 PM on September 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


Update: I was able to get the serial number from the store where the bike was purchased, and filed a police report, as useless as it may seem.
posted by halogen at 2:34 PM on September 10, 2008


Pretty much the same thing happened to me last week! Mine and my partner's brand new bikes were stolen from our shed - probably by someone living nearby who'd seen us riding them home - that makes it extra horrible.

Unfortunately bike theft is really common and there's not a lot you can do apart from file it with the police and hope your bike turns up one day. If you were insured just get another and keep it extra secure in the future.

We wanted to do charity rides with ours but the insurance won't pay out so we're trying a bit of a creative tack to get something good out of the whole crappy situation - we've set up an event here to raise money for new bikes, then we'll do a big charity ride with them to raise money for a good cause. Details of the whole thing are here. We've got in touch with local media to raise awareness of bike theft and hopefully raise more money for charity. Hope this gives you some inspiration - it's helping us to focus on something positive instead of just sitting around hating our crime-ridden neighbourhood!
posted by cardamine at 2:41 PM on September 10, 2008


What kind of lock? Is it a solid kryptonite lock? Those are usually harder to cut through. A passing bike thief could have seen a cheap lock on a bike, climbed the fence, and taken it. No need to blame your neighbors.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:42 PM on September 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


I just had my bike stolen and sympathize. Here in Chicago, they have been stealing them for the scrap metal value. Unless you have some evidence against the neighbor, like someone saw him/her take it, I doubt the police will do much.

When you replace it buy the New York U Lock or NYC CHain. Wrap the ulock in electrical tape, makes it more difficult to cut the plastic cover and get a grip on the metal.

Sorry!
posted by Ponderance at 2:43 PM on September 10, 2008


PinkSuperhero, thanks for pointing out that accusing my neighbors would be uncalled for. That's why I posted a question on AskMe--I am not quite sure whether my reaction to the theft is completely rational.
posted by halogen at 2:43 PM on September 10, 2008


Please don't accuse your neighbors!

Bikes are stolen from bike rooms, basements, garages, shared spaces, and other areas all the time by people who don't live there.

Your building may have been cased by a mover, electrician, plumber, painter, cable-installer, or handyman. Or it could have been any random stranger who came into the place looking for an easy theft.

You'll never get your bike back. Sorry. It's gone. So don't waste any more emotion or energy with it. Go buy a new bike and get back to riding as soon as possible.

But you should talk with your neighbors about the theft, and you should file a report with the police. Both your neighbors and the police will want to know.
posted by wfrgms at 2:44 PM on September 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Do you have renter's insurance? The theft of your bike might be covered under that policy, if you have one.

I bet having your insurance company replace the bike would make you feel better :)
posted by iminurmefi at 2:48 PM on September 10, 2008


As others have mentioned, be sure you get a good solid lock for your next bike. If you didn't have your bike locked up with a good U-lock or an NYC chain-type lock, it was very easy to steal. No lock offers an absolute guarantee against theft, but investing in a good lock (and knowing how to lock up properly) will greatly lessen your chances of having your next bike stolen.
posted by smich at 3:05 PM on September 10, 2008


I think you achieve the same thing as "Did your neighbor acquire (my) new shiny bike this weekend?" by instead saying "Did you see anyone with (my) new shiny bike this weekend? (or "since DD/MM/YY")", but it doesn't bring the neighbourhood into it.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:46 PM on September 10, 2008


How about getting a cheap bike, parking it back outside, and recording all activity with a motion-detecting web cam? Perhaps you would catch them at it.
posted by procrastination at 3:49 PM on September 10, 2008


Along similar lines of Procastinations's suggestion (okay my suggestion enters fantasy land), there have been successful bike theft stings using bikes baited with a GPS unit. The police are the ones implementing the program.

Unfortunately, the police in most cities in the US would not do this and the plan would be too costly for one person.

If the thief frequently watches your apartment complex, though, never know could find a thief who targets bikes or items in your complex.

Sorry I wish I had real solutions that you could use to catch a bike thief. If I were in your shoes, I would be devestated.
posted by Wolfster at 7:00 PM on September 10, 2008


I would add that you should take a look at local pawn shops and used bike shops to see if it turns up. If you have filed a police report, you may be able to get it back.
posted by Gor-ella at 7:34 AM on September 11, 2008


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