Bike stolen from building, have footage. What next?
July 30, 2022 12:21 PM   Subscribe

An Amazon delivery worker stole my (foolishly) unlocked bike from the building lobby about 12 days ago. I have him dead to rights on security footage. I also know who in the building picked up the package he dropped off, though we've only said hi in passing. I'd like not to involve the police because I'm anti-carceral, so I'd like to hear suggestions for what I can do next to ideally recover the bike and less-than-ideally penalize the thief in some way, to prevent or discourage further thefts (like from other delivery sites).

Add'l details that may or may not be relevant:
- The thief:
---Didn't have the Amazon delivery vest on, so I'm guessing was an 'independent contractor' without a set route.
---Was wearing a face mask so I don't think I'd be able to recognize him on the street.
---Rather than using the keypad for deliveries to open the door like I've seen others use, used a long screwdriver to pop the front door open even when he was just making the delivery.

- The bike is valued at <$1000, so I believe it'd be a petit larceny misdemeanor rather than a felony.
- I live in NYC.
- I was given permission to review the footage from my landlord.
- My cockamamie fantasyland plan would be to somehow find him through my neighbor contacting Amazon, and get my bike back. I know that's probably impossible.

I know you are not my lawyer, whatever you tell me is not legal advice, etc etc
posted by coolname to Grab Bag (16 answers total)
Best answer: I think you know this, but the fantasy of getting your bike back without involving the police is, well, a fantasy. The most Amazon will likely do for you is fire the guy, but Amazon is not in the business of law enforcement (not yet anyway). And even to fire the guy, Amazon will likely require that you provide them with a police report as evidence. It has been awhile since I engaged with the NYPD, but when I did, before doing anything they let me know what my options were in terms of charges - as the victim, you do have some say and can advocate for a lesser charge. And going to the police isn't going to automatically make anything happen - you won't be forced to press charges or anything. So, while I share your misgivings about the carceral state, if you want your bike back, I'd at least walk down to your local precinct and talk to someone there.

Otherwise, I'd be actively monitoring Craigslist, local bike stores, pawn shops, etc.
posted by coffeecat at 1:27 PM on July 30, 2022 [6 favorites]

The fact that he 'popped the door' with a screwdriver makes me wonder if he was given information as to where your bike was left, and the package was a way to dumbfound anyone looking at him. I don't think I'd want to talk to the neighbour, since he picked up the package - and may have been the one to alert the thief to the bike... but not necessarily so! I'd contact the police and see what they can find.
posted by itsflyable at 1:32 PM on July 30, 2022 [13 favorites]

It's my understanding usually people steal bikes to sell, not to use themselves. So, look on local second-hand websites/Facebook groups for your bike for sale. Contact the seller asking to check it out. Go for a test ride and don't come back, or take a group of friends with you for support and just persuade them to give it back.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:01 PM on July 30, 2022

Best answer: I'm sorry to say this, but almost 2 weeks after the theft there's very little chance the person who took your bike still has it or even knows where it is. I second coffeecat's advice to check Craigslist, but it's unlikely to still be there if it ever was in the first place.

As someone who's had to deal with this too and did the legwork to follow up, I'd also suggest that it's just as unlikely you'd be able to recover your bike in this situation as it would be for the police to do it. Of the two occasions I've had a bike stolen in NYC, once was from a locked bike room with key fob access and multiple security cameras and once was literally in front of the 84th Precinct on Gold St in Brooklyn. Neither time was anyone (least of all myself) able to do anything to recover the bike.

It's traumatic and it sucks to lose a mode of transportation, especially one that's a good alternative to the train/bus in a pandemic, but if it's at all possible for you to let it go (and hopefully receive compensation from renter's insurance), I urge you to do so.
posted by theory at 2:04 PM on July 30, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Wearing a mask, not in uniform, broke into the building.... unless your video footage is high resolution enough to show him entering with the specific box, if not getting out of an Amazon-marked truck, and the exact markings on the box, who's to say that was actually "the" Amazon driver delivering "that" specific package? Or anyone else in particular? Could have been any other guy with a box and a screwdriver.

I'm not so sure you'd have a strong enough legal case here, and NYPD is hardly going to go through the motions anyway, let alone track someone down, for a sub-$1000 theft. But even if they did identify the subcontractor and seek a warrant for their dispatch records, etc., there's a ready made defense without a clear face or even a uniform: "that's not me."

You left an unlocked bike in a NYC apartment lobby. Someone was going to get that anyway, guaranteed. It sucks. But realistically I'd let it go as a hard learning experience.
posted by spitbull at 3:49 PM on July 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: theory's theory is sound. I consider a stolen bike a planned cost of riding a bike. It helps me with the emotions when a theft happens. I try to avoid having my bike stolen, but even when I add in that cost, it's still cheaper than driving.

to prevent or discourage further thefts (like from other delivery sites).

For this, I'd take the big-picture view. What alternatives to bike theft can you support within your community?
posted by aniola at 3:49 PM on July 30, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm sorry your bike got stolen. That sucks.

So, if I'm understanding you, your working theory here is that you get in touch with this neighbor, tell him his delivery driver stole your bike, and could he please let Amazon know, and he not only does this but also somehow loops you into this exchange and then Amazon releases the name and address of the driver so you can contact him and ask him to give you back the bike?

I think the realistic 'what next' here is that you buy another bike and a good, thick chain lock or two and maybe find a place in your apartment to store it when you're not using it.

I mean, the theft didn't happen because it's a delivery site. It happened because your bike was unlocked in a place the public has easy access to. Sometimes via screwdriver, but easy access nonetheless.
posted by ananci at 5:39 PM on July 30, 2022 [4 favorites]

The only hope you had of getting your bike back is legal consequences to the thief. If you are not willing to pursue police involvement, why do you think Amazon will do it for you? Based on your word? Do you think Amazon will review your evidence and then contact the delivery outfit?

Kiss it goodbye and learn the lesson. If you do not want to get police involved when someone steals your stuff, take better care of your stuff because it is going to happen again.

You also might want to talk to your landlord about making the lock a little more resistant to a screw driver. Maybe a plate on the door that covers the mechanism?

What does your homeowners/renters insurance say?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:20 PM on July 30, 2022 [3 favorites]

Interesting, I would have thought the package was fake. The fact that the package was REAL, made him that much easier to track.

Personally, involve the police, show them the footage, and have THEM subpoena Amazon for the identity of this gig worker. Probably won't recover the bike, but it's at least a bit of fitting punishment.
posted by kschang at 12:12 AM on July 31, 2022

Trust me, NYPD will not lift a finger for this.
posted by spitbull at 3:38 AM on July 31, 2022 [2 favorites]

Hi! I am also anti carceral, but once was not and made a bike theft report in NYC. The cops aren’t going to get your bike back either. Spitbull is entirely correct.

I agree that if he popped the lock, he probably knew there was something there and so someone in the building knows the thief. My suggestion - and this is what I successfully did when the cops were unhelpful - is to make a writeup of who you are, and why the bike was important to you and why you need it, along with contact info. Someone may “mysteriously” find the bike.
posted by corb at 6:25 AM on July 31, 2022

Best answer: I’d hesitate to link the neighbor and the thief in a scheme. It sounds unnecessarily complicated. A fake delivery box seems more likely. Thieves are now known to impersonate delivery people in order to get on property without raising notice. No legit delivery person is popping locks. They don’t care about your package that much in order to break in in order to ensure it is safely on your doorstep. It’s definitely a weird situation and I’m sorry you got your bike stolen. It would be interesting to talk to the neighbor who received the box and find out what you can. I wouldn’t be surprised if the box was labeled for someone else/contained something that the person never ordered/or was empty. Maybe the thief picked it up on the way in, a convenient decoy for casing the lobby. I’d just make the police report and call your insurance.
posted by amanda at 8:06 AM on July 31, 2022 [4 favorites]

Just wanted to encourage you to file a police report and submit the claim to any renter's insurance if you have it. Might work?
posted by bluedaisy at 12:23 PM on August 1, 2022

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice, everybody! Everyone had something valuable or that I didn't think of to say. I agree that NYPD is not going to lift a finger given everything I know about them. Nonetheless, I'm going to file a police report for the insurance claim which will unfortunately necessitate my going to the precinct personally, apparently because I have footage of the incident. I've already contacted my insurance who are going to pay out some if I get a replacement worth more than the deductible and also my landlord, who will put in a plate for the main door.
posted by coolname at 7:54 PM on August 2, 2022

I don't know much about how insurance works, maybe it's too late, but check to see how much it will make your insurance go up if you make a claim. I hear a lot of times people decide not to make claims because of how much their insurance will go up.
posted by aniola at 12:03 AM on August 4, 2022

Bonus: if your insurance would go up too much, no visit to the police!
posted by aniola at 12:04 AM on August 4, 2022

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