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How do I get my stolen bike back?
December 5, 2008 2:14 PM   Subscribe

My bike was stolen, and now I think it's being sold on craigslist. How can I go about getting it back?

My bike was stolen this morning from inside my house, possibly because someone left the front door open. This afternoon, someone posted an ad on craigslist for a bike that sounds an awful lot like mine and is listed at half the bike's value. How can I identify whether or not this is my bike (I have the serial number) and also get it back in my possession? If this is my bike up on craigslist, how can I ensure that it doesn't just disappear?
posted by cubby to Human Relations (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would email the poster and see if you can get any photos, especially close-ups of the bike. Also say you'd like to come over and take a look at. If the photos identify the bike as likely to be yours (and maybe the poster lives in your neighborhood), call your local authorities with your evidence and see what they can do about it. I would vote for not actually trying to get the bike back yourself -- see how much info you can get out of the poster first.
posted by sararah at 2:20 PM on December 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is there a photo of it? It's not unusual to ask the poster to see a picture of it.

Are there any identifying markings that you could spot on the frame?
posted by tybeet at 2:20 PM on December 5, 2008


Oh, also alert local bike stores of the theft and offer them identifying information and your bike's serial number. It is possible that if the poster doesn't get any hits on craigslist he may try to re-sell it to a bike shop. This happened to my mom and dad -- someone stole my mom's bike and then tried to re-sell it to my dad who was the owner of a small bike store. It was a happy ending -- he called the cops and they got the bike back!
posted by sararah at 2:23 PM on December 5, 2008


If they won't send a photo, maybe contact them, tell them you're interested and arrange a meeting to take a look. If you go and confirm that it's yours, you could tell them that you definitely want to buy it, but need to go to the bank/atm/need a day to scrounge up the cash, arrange a time the next day to meet them again to do the deal, then contact the authorities and see if they'll come to the rendezvous.
posted by otolith at 2:27 PM on December 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not condoning it, but every time a friend of mine had their bike stolen but found the person who had it, they just took it back. Depending on the city you live in, the cops might not even care, which is the case here in Richmond.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:31 PM on December 5, 2008


If you do take it back, don't pull an OJ, although you might want to bring some people with.

Whatever you do, we'd love to hear how it worked out.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:34 PM on December 5, 2008


This happened to a friend of mine. He actually arranged to look at the bike and asked to take for a quick ride. Then he looked at the serial number and confirmed it was his. Then he panicked, gave it back, said he'd think about it, and went home and called the police. The police were going to actually set up a sting to bust the guy (amazing they would have time for such things) but he never showed up. He did not get his bike back.

I would arrange to meet the guy (fast before it gets sold), but then call the police before the meeting for advice. Personally I was smacking my friend for not simply riding away once he figured out the bike was his... but I'm not sure about the legality of that (what if the other guy bought it from the thief and doesn't know it's stolen, are you allowed to just reclaim it? Don't know), plus it puts you at risk.
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:34 PM on December 5, 2008


the cops might not even care
Yeah, but OJ Simpson got 15 years today for trying to take his stuff back.
Don't act solo. At most, send a friend to check out the bike, and then if you're sure it's yours, call the cops.
posted by beagle at 2:37 PM on December 5, 2008


Call the cops first. They will tell you what to do. They fight crime for a living. Ask to be connected to a detective at your local precinct or even go in there. We have no idea what to do.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:45 PM on December 5, 2008 [8 favorites]


Bring a large-sized friend, a camera (video is best), and a copy of the police report you filed (or will file now). If the bike is yours, roll that film or take pix of the seller, the bike, the location, etc.. Show the seller a copy of the police report you filed. If your interaction is audio-recorded, all the better. Politely ask the individual to return your bicycle. If the person refuses, call the fuzz.
posted by terranova at 2:51 PM on December 5, 2008


My strategy would be to call to have a look at it, go with a friend, verify the serial number, and tell the seller that the bike is stolen, without making any direct accusations, and that you are going to call the police. Then call the cops right there from your mobile.

By leaving to call the cops, you would likely not see your bike again -- this is a motivated seller.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 2:51 PM on December 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seconding Ironmouth. You can lay some clever plan about shaming/tricking/scaring the person if they turn out to be the thief, but you can't plan around the one variable of what their reaction may be. They may demure and give up the bike, they may pull a weapon out. You don't know, so are you willing to risk that for the bike? Ask the police very politely what your options are. If you don't like the first answer, call again and ask to speak to a shift supervisor or detective.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:56 PM on December 5, 2008


Bring a large-sized friend, a camera (video is best), and a copy of the police report you filed (or will file now). If the bike is yours, roll that film or take pix of the seller, the bike, the location, etc.. Show the seller a copy of the police report you filed. If your interaction is audio-recorded, all the better. Politely ask the individual to return your bicycle. If the person refuses, call the fuzz.

Your large friend and various pieces of electronic equipment will do you very little good if the seller chooses to become stabby or shooty. Ironmouth is correct-- the police do this for a living. Contact them.
posted by dersins at 3:14 PM on December 5, 2008


thanks for the good advice folks - but sadly it seems the craigslist post is not my bike. i called the poster and asked for more identifying features of the bike and it is an older model and different color than mine. i will definitely keep a look out though and will be carrying my camera with me for the next few days in case i happen to see it
posted by cubby at 3:15 PM on December 5, 2008


cubby, your profile says you're in Boston. Might as well put your bike into the Trace program.

Boston's Trace page
posted by Nerro at 3:25 PM on December 5, 2008


A few people have said this, but if you haven't already, definitely file a police report right now. It gives you a lot more leverage if you see your bike out and about.
posted by robinpME at 3:31 PM on December 5, 2008


... and you'll need to have filed a police report in order to make an insurance claim.
posted by JimN2TAW at 4:06 PM on December 5, 2008


Holy crap! This EXACT thing happened to me, except it took over the course of two weeks.

My bike was stolen on campus, and the first thing I did was file a police report.

Two weeks later, I saw my bike being sold on Craigslist. So I called them as an interested buyer and set up a time to see my bike. In the meantime, I called the city police, since the place was in their jurisdiction. They told me to go to the home and if there's any trouble an officer would be standing by.

When I got to the home, I asked to take the bike for a spin, then, matter-of-factly, told him, "Listen, I'm going to level with you. This is my bike that was just stolen. And if you don't give it back to me, the police are coming by to give it back to me."

He explained some punk kid had owed him money and gave this to him in exchange for it. Then he gave it back to me. I was extremely lucky, but I think if you give them the straight talk once you see your bike, they have no choice but to give it back or face some worse consequences.

Good luck!
posted by i8ny3x at 4:57 PM on December 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


Plus, I know it was my bike because they didn't bother to even remove the removable fenders! I'd suggesting not posting that you lost your bike on craigslist, because i'm sure those thieves will be trolling there too. Once they think they're safe, they're going to post, if that was their intent all along. Again, good luck!
posted by i8ny3x at 5:00 PM on December 5, 2008


Let some big-ass cop with a gun and a club get it back, but even then you have to be careful. If you fuck with bad guys who know where you live, they could be back to collect your teeth.
posted by pracowity at 2:41 AM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


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