Is your bike or a friend’s bike missing? Then you must know what to do if you see someone riding your stolen bike. Following statistics, the chances that you’d find it is low, but you could always be fortunate. Thus, you will discover what to do if you see someone riding your stolen bike in this article.
The likely advice regarding what to do when you find someone with your stolen bicycle is to report to the police. However, there is more to it than simply informing the police. Also, it is not advisable to confront someone possessing a bicycle you think belongs to you.
Meanwhile, the person with your stolen bike may not be the thief. Typically, bicycle thieves don’t keep stolen bicycles; they sell them for quick bucks. So, you could always catch someone trying to sell your stolen bike. Nonetheless, the person you see with your stolen bike in possession of the stolen property.
In this article, we will follow Thomas Soininen’s footsteps to help you retrieve your stolen bike from someone.
A Stolen Bike Encounter: How Cycler Recovered a Stolen Bike
During the 2008 summer in Turku, Finland, Soininen lost an Author Vision mountain bike to theft. The Author Vision is not a popular bike in the Finnish market, and so not many of it around.
Soininen had filed a police report and a claim with the insurance company. Both agencies concluded investigations, and he was going to get a new bike and make a small deductible payment.
One day, he is about to leave home for a training ride on a road bike, fully kitted in club-colored bibs and jersey. Barely 200 meters from the front door, he sights a young fellow riding what would be “his bike”. The cycler with the stolen bike is heading in Soininen’s direction, so he went across the road quickly, riding up to who would be the “bike thief”.
Nice bike you’ve got there! Mind if I take a closer look?
He let Soininen glance the bike over, and he could inspect it closely to be sure it’s indeed his. Fortunately, it was his bike with the same frame size, color scheme, make and model. He further identified some scratches, confirming the crash he experienced while going over destructive roots in the immediate past autumn. Straddling his road bike, Soininen flipped the stolen mountain bike with his hands, revealing the filed or erased serial number beneath the bottom bracket, now covered in red house paint.
The cycler possessing the stolen bike claims he purchased it for MSRP 1,699 Euros (about 2,066 dollars) but misplaced the receipt. Soininen explains to the suspected bike thief that the cycle resembles his stolen bike and that he would call to seek advice from the police since he filed a report.
Suspected bike thief:
You ain’t… callin’ no police!
He snaffled the stolen mountain bike off Soininen and rode in the right direction. Soininen brings out his phone from his jersey pocket, clips on his road bike, trailing the person with his mountain bike.
112 emergency, how may I assist you?
… my name is Thomas Soininen, and I’m following what I believe to be a bicycle stolen from me. We’re currently heading north on Lemminkäisenkatu.
… sending a patrol car your way!
Soininen was already trailing his stolen mountain bike with emergency backup closing in. He also reported every move to dispatch:
Right turn onto Untamonkatu.
Left turn onto Joukahaisenkatu.
The suspected mountain bike thief dropped something from his bag at some point, allowing Soininen to get closer for a blocking maneuver. Upon sighting Soininen, the suspect swings a heavy U-lock towards his face; he dodges it.
Soininen tells the dispatch:
… I’m being threatened with violence
He keeps about 30 meters from the stolen bike and calls out the next turn:
Right onto Tykistökatu, across the bridge. The trail extends to the back streets of Nummi, and the chase speed increases to 30km/h. the suspected mountain bike thief stopped along a driveway, screaming at Soininen.
Suspected Bike Thief:
Why are you following me?!
… you’ve got my bike! Besides, the police are on their way!
The suspected bike thief took the words for bluffs. Soon, he pulls into the Lidl supermarket parking lot, unclips the bike pedal, locks the bike with the U-lock, and goes inside. Two minutes later, the police arrive, and the dispatcher lets Soininen hang up the phone.
You’re the guy who called about the bike?
Yeah. The guy you’re looking for is 25-26, wearing cut-off jeans and a hoodie, hair about shoulder length.
Alright, wait here.
In less than a minute, the police marched out the suspect. They check Soininen and the suspect’s IDs. Soininen’s ID links to a police report disclosing a detailed description of the stolen bike. However, the suspect’s report shows he’s wanted, and the police bundle him inside the vehicle. Of course, Soininen retrieves and keeps his stolen bike.
Read Also: Comprehensive guide for selling your bike on Craigslist safely.
What to Do if You See Someone Riding Your Stolen Bike
Following this story, below are is what to do if you see someone riding your stolen bike:
File a Police Report and Insurance Claim
When your bike is stolen, make sure to file a police report immediately. Otherwise, you would not be helping the situation. Get pictures of your bike ready.
You will also file an insurance claim if the bike is insured. Otherwise, you bear the loss and move on. But if the bike is insured, the claims adjuster investigates the situation to validate the claim. You may get a new bike and pay a small deductible, which lessens the loss.
Inspect the Bike
While the police may be on the lookout for your stolen bike, you could find it first. When you see someone riding or trying to sell your bike, do not confront the suspect. You’d be blowing cover by confronting the suspect, and you might result in injury or losing sight of the stolen bike and suspect.
Go up to the suspected bike thief and say, “You have a nice bike there.” The idea is to give the suspect the impression that you admire the bike, whereas you’re buying time to inspect it closely. Look at the serial number spot and check for scratches, too.
When confident the bike belongs to you, question its price. Do not say, “This bike is similar to my stolen bike.”
Inform the Police
Go some distance away from the suspect, and inform the police. Provide your current location and vivid description of the scene if you are not familiar with the area. The police will do with every detail you can provide to locate you easily.
Follow the Cycler
If the suspect moves, trail them and keep the police or dispatch informed. Try as much as possible to update the police on every location change and attitude of the suspect. The police typically take an average of 10 minutes to arrive.
If the suspect approaches a dangerous neighborhood, inform the police. It is also advisable to stop the chase, but the police are in a position to advise you.
Recover Your Bike
When the police backup arrives up, direct them to the suspect. Of course, you must allow the police to do their job. They may request your ID and the suspect’s ID. And if you had reported your stolen bike to the police, it might reflect on the database with complete information about the cycle.
Depending on what the police deduce from the situation, you would get your bike back instantly. The suspected bike thief will be arrested, and it saves you from confronting them publicly to aid their escape.
Finally, make sure your contact details in the original police report are still active. The police will advise you to keep the bike and stay available for further questions during the investigations later.
What to Do if You Find Your Stolen Bike on Craigslist
If you find your stolen bike on Craigslist, the seller might not be the thief. The seller could have seen a killer deal on the bike and bought to flip it for the most money. Nonetheless, it is your bike and you must have it back.
Using Legal Action
Consider buying back the bike, and then take the seller to small claims court to recover your money if you can prove that the stolen bike belongs to you. You can simply go and take pictures of the bike, gather other info to identify the bike, and sue for injunctive relief. Ask the court for a temporary restraining order to keep the seller from selling your stolen bike so that you can get it back without paying them. You also need the seller’s name and address.
However, you want to hope that the thief did not scrape off the serial number.
Inviting the Police
You can use the police to recover your stolen bike. Jay Doktor, a retired law enforcement officer, has pieces of advice for you.
“There were a few times I handled calls that were similar to your situation (finding a stolen bike on Craigslist),” said Doktor.
He added that if you had recorded the serial number of your bike, or had engraved your drivers license number on it, it makes the responding officer’s job a lot easier to prove ownership of the stolen bike. In this case, you have to call your local police agency, explaining that you found your stolen bike on Craigslist.
You will have to make arrangements with the seller on CL to meet them to buy the bike. In Doktor’s words, “I would recommend a public place like a shopping center, parking lot, and have a friend with you who has a cell phone. Once the meeting is scheduled, call your local police back and ask for an officer to meet you at least a half-hour before the meeting time at a different nearby location.”
Plot your plan carefully with the police officer and have your friend wait in the car or somewhere near the meeting place so that they can call the officer. While the meeting is taking place, the officer pulls up to investigate the bike to prove ownership.
“Just keep in mind that the officer does not have a crystal ball to look into the past and determine who owns the bike, nor see how this person came to possess it,” Doktor said. He added that the fact that this bike has similar custom tires does not mean it belongs to you.
You need proof, including a photo of your bike before it was stolen, and be prepared to answer lots of questions from the officer. The police officer will also ask the Craigslist seller similar questions, including how and where they got the bike and if there is a receipt for it.
Doktor said the obvious that “the officer’s investigation will result in a few different outcomes. He might be able to determine ownership at that time or he might not”. This will depend on whether the evidence you present is concrete or not.
On many occasions, people buy things from those who stole them without knowing that it was stolen. “If this is the case the officer might be able to mediate ownership of the bike, but charging this person with a crime will be hard to do,” Doktor said.
The investigating officer can have the suspected bike thief prove that they bought the bike from a reputable store if they claim so. The officer will be very confident with their decision if they have to give the bike to you. They will have to catch the suspect in a lie, or if their story is not reasonable. They can also get the suspect to say, “I found the bike and thought I could sell it for a few bucks.” In this case, the suspect can be charged with misappropriation of found property, depending on your state laws.
Do police look for stolen bikes?
Yes, the police look for stolen bikes. First, file a police report and hope that the police find it. Mae sure to be on the lookout for your stolen bike. When you find what looks like your stolen bike, do not confront the suspect. Most of the time, the suspect is an innocent buyer of the bike, but they are guilty of the possession of the stolen property.
What is the punishment for stealing a bike?
A bike thief found guilty may be punished as a felony or misdemeanor. A bike thief can be imprisoned in a county jail for up to a year and slammed a fine of up to $5,000, depending on the state.
Filing a police report is important to get your stolen bike back. You would inform the insurance, offering you an opportunity to secure a new bike.
Meanwhile, when you find your stolen bike, do not take it; it could be a trap. Inform the police and chase after the suspect to keep an eye on the bike. When the police recover the stolen bike, it’s all yours without questions, except no report or evidence the bike belongs to you.