Dear PoPville – I bought your stolen bike for $30, is it yours?


“Dear PoPville,

I’m trying to return a potentially stolen Specialized ‘Hard Rock’ to its owner. It’s black with Hard Rock written in silver and red, Scott hand bars, wiring for an odometer and an axle hitch mount.

Here’s the story. This last Monday around 6:00 PM, I was approached outside the Columbia Heights Metro by someone asking if I’d like to buy a bike. It was a nice bike, and the owner was asking $40, and the dropped to $30 quickly. No evidence, but seemed likely it was stolen. Knowing the police don’t have capacity to respond to a call of a ‘potentially stolen bike being sold’, I opted to buy it and try to find the original owner.

I’ve posted on craigslist and had the serial number searched in the stolen bike police database, but with no luck. So here’s my last shot. If you are the owner, please contact joshtulkin(at)”

46 Comment

  • Any chance you got a look at the person and report them to cops anyway? My and my friends bikes were just stolen out of his garage in Columbia heights last night.

  • wow dude – you’re a mensch!

    as to @um — seriously? he purchased the bike suspecting it to be stolen but with no proof that it was. he turns around and seeks out the bike’s proper owner? how on earth did he commit a crime if he had no way to verify the bike as stolen?

  • It is not my bike, but I just wanted to say that you are a very nice person. Thank you.

  • wow. kudos to you! what a nice thing to do.

  • That was nice of you! My bike got recently stolen and this post got my hopes up but sadly it’s not mine. But on behalf of owners-of-stolen-bikes everywhere, thank you!

  • Wow, this should go on the PoP “Mean Streets” stories section — what an awesome thing to do.

  • The old version of the law require intent to deprive another person of their property, which theoretically would have made what you did legal (however, proving that you intended to post it for the real owner if the person selling you the bike was an under cover officer, would have been difficult).

    The new law – listed below, make receiving stolen property a crime if you knew or had reason to know it was stolen.

    § 22-3232. Receiving stolen property.

    (a) A person commits the offense of receiving stolen property if that person buys, receives, possesses, or obtains control of stolen property, knowing or having reason to believe that the property was stolen.

    Still, I would guess that no prosecutor would charge you for trying to return it with actual evidence that you are looking for the real owner.

  • Buying property that you have reason to believe may be stolen (such as a too-good-to-be-true price) is illegal, and for good reason. Even with noble intentions, buying this bike rewarded the thief and encourages further bike thefts. Much better to contact police or not buy the bike.

  • What a wonderful person!! Salt of the earth.

  • you are seriously an awesome human being
    after reading an article that 7 people were shot last night in DC it is so great to read this

  • How is this a nice thing to do? People steal bikes because people will pay money for them, in this case $30 to $40.

  • Accountering

    I think that you had great intent in doing this, but ultimately, you facilitated bike theft here. He steals bikes because he can get cash for them. Moving forward, I would say your best bet is to call the police, instead of giving a bike thief $30 as a reward for stealing someone elses bike.

    • the OP did not facilitate bike theft…get off your pedestal.

      • Accountering

        He didn’t directly steal a bike, no, but by purchasing a stolen bike, he gave the thief $30, and the incentive to steal another bike. If there is no demand for stolen bikes, less bikes will be stolen, so indirectly, he did facilitate a future bike theft, regardless of the fact that you disagree with myself and the two other people with the exact same sentiment in this post.
        Great intent in doing this, but he should be aware that there are unintended side effects of his actions.

        • hispanicandproud

          The thief will continue to steal no matter what. A couple of weekends ago we saw to bandits take off with bike tires right in front of Acre 121. DC cops were of course busy eating at IHOP.

        • Great, your attempt to curb demand in DC will just lead to eBay and CL sales in other cities. GET REAL…OP did something great and will likely get this bike back to its original owner – something that is much harder to do through eBay or CL. A thieve is going to theft, they are not an economist thinking within the laws of supply & demand. This is real life.

          • You seem the be the one who needs to GET REAL. Everyone conforms to the laws of supply and demand (I assume the thief is not a monopolist!) whether they are trying to or not.

            Thieves go for easy scores. Sending bikes to other cities for $30 is a lot harder than being able to do it it locally and if they have to work to hard for not enough money, they’ll stop.

          • Yes they are thinking about supply and demand! They steal bikes because their is a demand for this stolen good. If there wasn’t a market for the stolen goods they wouldn’t steal them. Also your ebay and CL examples take significantly more effort. If people didn’t buy bikes from thieves off the street and the thieves had to resort to CL the overall number of bike thefts would decrease.

          • Then how do you explain Pawn shops!? Individual “consumers” such as OP can stop – sure we can curb that demand. But Pawn shops have been and will continue to be a constant “demander” of stolen goods. I don’t need to get real, protesting the OP buying a stolen bike with intent to give back to owner is not going to solve the problem, really not that easy. What about all the thefts that are for personal use, again the thieves will continue to steal. Perhaps that is why it is a part of the 7 commandments for example, a 2,000+ year old text … thieving will always occur. Ripping on the OP for “supporting theft” is a joke!

  • OP – you are a good person and hopefully the owner will see this and be extra grateful for the kind people like you in the city!


  • Sir, you are a mensch! (Though I share PetworthAndy and Accountering’s concerns.)

  • hispanicandproud

    Best post all day! Great job.
    We need more people like you.

  • You are a beautiful human being.

  • i hope you can reunite the bike with the owner! good luck!

  • That bike is so old it’s been stolen 6 times. That’s a lot of original owners. The original original owner probably lives far away now.

  • I can’t believe the OP took money out of pocket in hopes of restoring this bike to someone he/she didn’t even know!

    I wish the critics would quit already with their carping and recognize the beauty and generosity of this deed. Whether or not the OP had bought the bike, we can be sure that the thief will never stop thieving until he gets caught. You think if he hadn’t sold the bike he would stop grabbing them? C’mon.

  • What a great post, Josh! Hope you find the owner. Great karma coming your way!

  • To all of the complete morons acting like Josh did a disservice, please wake up. If he had not purchased this bike, the person walking 3 steps behind him would have. And to all of those slamming the DC Metro Police, shame on you. My brother is an officer and I can assure you that they do not spend their days “eating at IHOP”. There is very little that can be done, even if someone did call them for the “suspected” sale of a stolen bike and furthermore, the perp would be long gone before the officers even had a chance to arrive. These hustlers are clearly far wiser than you and will pick up on someone they believe to be calling the cops. And let’s be honest, when was the last time you actually called the cops and stopped a crime, ever-watchful, all-knowing neighbor? I’m guessing next to never. So, please, take a seat. You’re too afraid to even post a name with your ignorant comment. Take your pompous negativity elsewhere.

    • WOW. Your brother being a cop means that everything they do is perfect.

      Calling the cops does help. I have seen several fights on my block and the cops have arrived and arrested people after a call.

      • I did not say everything they do is perfect- so not really sure what you’re even talking about. I simply think it’s ridiculous and disrespectful for people to trash talk them. And yes, calling the cops for a fight is going to get a quicker response than a call about a “suspicion” over a stolen bike- not even proof of a stolen bike… so no contest. I was simply saying the likelihood of the cops being able to catch these people every time is not great when they have many other important things to focus on- ie: fights, shootings, etc… so people shouldn’t be so negative about a guy thinking on his feet trying to help someone get stolen property back. It’s just the reality of the situation.

    • Accountering

      I call the cops regularly when I see crimes occuring. I happily post my name on these comments, and come to HH and will happily introduce myself as Accountering, along with my RL name. You can certainly come and speak with me in person, and I will happily defend most every opinion I have given on this site.

      If no one purchases these bikes, than bike theft goes down. This person is not stealing bikes for fun, he is selling them to sell. If no one buys, than he cant sell them, and he goes onto something else. If you are not able to understand that, and instead are only capable of resorting to ad-hominem attacks, than it is you who deserves shame. Yes, he should call the police, and try to stop this.

      • Accountering,

        I am not trying to meet you to have a great debate over this- not sure if that was meant to intimidate me or what but it’s honestly not that serious. I understand your logic very clearly. But this one person is not making or breaking anything. How many others do you think are buying bikes for wrong and dishonest reasons and what is the plan to reach them to dissuade them? People are not going to stop stealing OR buying stolen bikes just because you say it’s wrong on a blog and certainly you understand that. My roommate’s bike was stolen 2 years ago and 3 bikes were stolen out of a garage just yesterday, and all are unfortunately likely never going to be seen again. The pattern is not going to change. So if one person gets their bike back from this, I see it as a win. It’s just my opinion, but I’m not the only one with it. So, touché, friend. I agree to disagree and am done arguing.

  • If you don’t find the owner, you could donate it to a bike co-op like these guys:

    They’re based in Trinidad and are good people.

  • I heart you for doing this, OP.

Comments are closed.