From the Forum – Several times I’ve seen a guy riding my stolen bike

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Several times I’ve seen a guy riding my stolen bike

“Several times I’ve seen a guy riding my stolen bike in the past month. The bike was stolen over a year ago outside of St. Matthew’s Cathedral. I didn’t have the bike registered so I never reported it stolen. It is a specialty bike that is fairly unique. I am most certain it’s mine. Any recommendations on what I should say to the guy if I encounter him? I am aware that he could have bought it from the bike thief, but he himself could also be the bike thief. Helpful advice is appreciated. Snark is not. Thanks.”

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37 Comment

  • If you have a photo post it on DC Used Bike Facebook group. You’ll find help pretty quick.

  • Follow him and slap your u-lock on it. Come back for it a day or so later. Yeah, he may have bought it, but I bet he had a vibe it was stolen when he saw it via CL or something.

    • Honestly, while I think people are aware that there are stolen items on CL, I don’t think most people *get a vibe* that something is stolen or they wouldn’t buy it. Because that’s a crime, as far as I know. Why would anyone knowingly purchase something stolen?

    • Is the expectation that the new owner would come back, see the lock, and remove their own lock and forget about it? Seems unlikely. They’d do whatever OP would eventually have to do; destroy one lock.

      • It takes like 2 minutes to drill out a u lock with a cordless drill and steel cutting bit. No big deal.

        • HaileUnlikely

          That is a long time to spend making a lot of noise out in public without having the other guy confront you or the other guy or some random passerby calling the police to report that *you* are stealing the bike. Good luck with that.

        • Hint: you can rent a cordless bench grinder from Home Depot. It will be off in 30 seconds. And people on the street in DC tend to mind their own business, in my experience. I’ve seen people legitimately removing bike locks with tools and no one says peep about it.

        • Right. So why not just drill out the new owner’s lock instead of slapping OP’s own and giving him a chance to drill out OP’s? Also everything everyone else said.

  • You should say nothing to the guy.
    You don’t know that it’s your bike. And even if you are “most certain” that it is your bike, you don’t know that the guy riding the bike is the person who stole it from you. You have no idea who stole it from you. The bike could have changed hands multiple times in the year since it was stolen. None of these people were under an obligation to make sure they weren’t buying anything that was stolen.
    If the bike was registered and there was a way to prove ownership, it would be a different matter.

    • Ashy Oldlady

      Bullshit. If you buy something that is stolen, you are in possession of stolen goods, which is illegal.

      • HaileUnlikely

        This is literally true, but there is also a very real risk that the current user of the bike has no awareness that it was stolen, really truly believes that it is rightfully his, will think the OP is trying to steal it, and might react in any of the many unpredictable ways that somebody might react if they think you are trying to steal from them.
        And if the guy who has it now is the one who originally stole it, I would not bet on him exactly being friendly about it either.
        Thus, I would recommend either involving the police–if you can really prove that it is yours–or else doing nothing.

        • If you bought a bike on CL (and possibly for below market value, as is common) I don’t think you will be stunned to hear it was stolen.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Somebody who is not a bike enthusiast may not have even the foggiest idea of what the market value is for a bike and thus that what they paid for it was way less than market value. I grew up riding a bike that I bought from K-Mart for a little over $100. Again, I’m not a bike enthusiast. I’m not into the whole urban hipster bike lifestyle thing – I just wanted something with wheels to get me places faster than I could accomplish on foot. I made it well into my twenties before I became aware that bikes that cost north of $1000 even existed. Somebody who isn’t into the whole bike lifestyle thing and just wants some wheels could legitimately think $25 or $50 for a non-new bike is a perfectly appropriate price, just like somebody who isn’t a musician couldn’t tell the difference between a $150 violin and a $1.5M Stradivarius.

  • If you have 100% locked down proof that it’s yours, take it back. Or put a new lock on it, call the police and prove it’s yours.

    • I would steal it back, no doubt in my mind.

      Do you have proof of ownership? If he wants to argue, call the cops and tell them its stolen.

      • Why ask questions when you can shoot first and ask questions later?

        Unless there’s 100% proof, stealing this bike is THEFT.

        If you have to “get a vibe,” the proof is not there.

        Internet Vigilantes.

      • I have done exactly this. My bike was stolen, and 6 months later I spotted it chained up on Georgia Ave across the from Safeway. I had filed a report, so I called the police. They sent out an officer, I proved that it was my bike, and he helped me cut the lock off.
        To the OP and all other bike owners– your bike doesn’t have to be registered in order to report it stolen! Mine wasn’t, but they took the report anyway. And always, always, always report stolen property.

        • For real, especially if you have a distinctive bike. You don’t have to have a piece of jewelry registered to you to report it stolen.

        • If you didn’t register it, how did you prove to the cop that it was your bike?

          • The police report will ask for make, model, color, etc. If they can pull the report up that was issued and backdated 6 months ago, it’s pretty easy to match up.
            And yes, the cop probably placed a bit of faith in her word that it was the same exact bike.

          • You filed a police report? Doubt many thrives do that.

  • I’ve actually recovered a stolen bike after seeing someone riding it. Luckily I had the serial number on my phone. I got in front of him and asked him if had a second. I told him that was my stolen bike, I didn’t know if he stole it, but best case he bough a stolen bike. I told him to flip it over so I could read off the serial number, which he confirmed match. He reluctantly handed it over and I quickly left. Ended up working out great for me besides a few scratches on my bike but be ready for a less than positive response.

  • Firecub1

    It’s nearly impossible for you to prove it is yours, if it’s been over a year without putting a police report in, you will have to call it a loss. If you flat out put a lock on the bike and try to claim it as yours, charges could possibly be pressed on you. Since you never made a legal paper trail with the police, especially if he purchased the bike from another seller. Now I know some bikes have a serial number on the frame, if your original purchase papers have said number that matches the bike, then you can call the police and go from there. So they can ask the secondary owner where/ from the purchased the said bike from.

  • justinbc

    It couldn’t hurt to report it (although you may cause the police to approach him in a way that offends some people). At worst they ask him some questions and you get nothing out of it, at best you possibly get it recovered.

  • I Dont Get It

    Are people here aware that there are several websites where you can post your bike’s serial number?

  • Question: I’ve tried in vain to find the serial number on my bike to register it. Any thoughts about where it may be hiding? 8-10year old Specialized Sirrus.

  • Honestly, someone tried to steal my bike tires in front of the movie theater at gallery place. I had the back tire and the bike frame locked up, but I foolishly left the front tire unlocked because the locks I had didn’t work for securing all of them. They stole the front tire, left me another bike’s front tire (??????).

    This is a corner that consistently has 30-odd people on it, and tons passing by. Just follow him, wait until not a lot of people are nearby, and cut the lock. You’ll be fine.

  • I succesfully recovered an unregistered, stolen bike by providing the police photographic evidence of the bike, including very unique paint scratches. If you can lock the bike up, call the police afterwards and be prepared to present photos. They said other solid evidence could include installed bike parts (like a seat) that have unique serial numbers and are on record under your name at a bike shop.

  • My 2¢:

    First, find any documents you might have concerning the purchase of the bike. This will help prove ownership. You also might get lucky and find the serial number. Also check with the store you purchased the bike from. Their sale records might include the bike’s serial number. Somewhere there’s a photo of you with the bike. Find it.

    Next, file a police report. Just do it. Sure you should have done it earlier, but better late than never. Bring copies of anything and everything that can prove ownership. There might an officer at the station who take an interest. Cultivate that. At any rate, earnestly show that you really want your bike back. That it cost such-and-such, and you’re pissed off.

    When you see you bike again, immediately call the police. Should you place a lock on the bike or confront the individual? These are gray areas and best to error on the side of caution. Check with the police. Ask for their advice. But take out that phone right away if you happen to come upon what you think is your bike. Call first, then snap a few pictures. There might be an officer a block away who can be on the scene in a minute. Get a report filed.

    Best of luck to you.

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