“I saw him pull bolt cutters from the leg of his pants/waistband and put them into his backpack”

stolen bikes
Photo by PoPville flickr user Caroline Angelo

“Dear PoPville,

When walking home from work last Thursday, I came to the intersection of First and M NE, right in front of Harris Teeter, at about 5:15 PM. A teenager had just hopped on a bike and ridden to the bike lane on the other side of the street from Harris Teeter, and he was looking back at his friend who was still at the bike rack. I didn’t think too hard about this normal behavior but then I noticed that he was too big for the bike, and the way he was watching his friend struggle at the rack was kind of strange.

I crossed onto M street and was walking along near the metro entrance and the two guys then came biking along in the bike lane on the other side of the street. They stopped across from me near the entrance to the bike trail, and one guy jumped off the bike and I saw him pull bolt cutters from the leg of his pants/waistband and put them into his backpack. The other guy had gotten off his bike and was looking at it, and I realized that odds are I’m watching a bike robbery in progress. Bolt cutters into the backpack, they hopped on the bikes and kept riding, turning right/south onto 3rd St.

I snapped a couple pictures of them- one of them had some distinct clothing/accessories. If your bike was stolen on Thursday from the rack outside Harris Teeter in NoMa, please reach out and I will give you the pictures to give to the police!”

Ed. Note: You can email me at [email protected] and I’ll put you in touch with OP.

32 Comment

  • “I realized that odds are I’m watching a bike robbery in progress.” OP, did you call the police? (I hope I hope?)

    • Would not have been enough time. Cops won’t do crap about bike theft unless they actually witness the theft in progress. You can point out the thief riding down the street and MPD will just go: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
      Sadly, I know from experience when reporting bike thefts in progress.

      • I’ve heard of cops (especially in the Third District) blowing things off when people flag something to them in person, but it seems like the response would have to be at least somewhat better if you called 911 — there would be a record of it, in any event.

        • Why advocate someone should waste their time? The police simply do not care about bike theft. It would be more productive to harangue people for using locks that can be defeated with bolt cutters.

      • Bike theft is usually a misdemeanor in DC (depending on the value of the bike), and therefore must be witnessed by an officer for them to do anything. I’ve mentioned this here a couple of times, but it bears repeating: MPD can only follow up on a witness’s account when it’s a felony (and a handful of misdemeanors); all others must be witnessed by the officer him/herself.

        • Wow, that’s absurd and very revealing. Is stealing a car also a misdemeanor? What about stealing property from a person’s backyard?

          • GTA is different, but in general felony theft is >$1000. So if the value of any item is $999.99 or less, it’s a misdemeanor.

        • When we had our bikes stolen the cops said it was a felony if the replacement cost of everything stolen was over $1,000. My understanding is that replacement cost means the cost to buy something similar brand new… Unless the two bikes stolen were Walmart bikes it was probably a felony.

          So, if I tell a cop I just saw someone steal a $1,000 bicycle will they do something about it?

  • Question – why is everyone afraid to post these pictures to the general public? I don’t see how liability can be an issue for a photo snapped in a public place of a crime being committed… even of juveniles. This gives us all a weapon against crime. If the police don’t act, we can plaster these pictures everywhere, at least maybe adding shame to the consequence of what they’re doing, and possibly shaming the police into acting.

    The next time I have a package stolen from my front porch, I intend to make up flyers of the offender and post them everywhere I can in the neighborhood.

    • In many instances crime videos/photos do get posted. But, as for using some caution:

      A) In some cases, we may only be 99% certain that is a crime. There maybe offsetting context that isn’t captured on video.
      B) These photos/videos are in many cases crude and will just reinforce negative stereotypes without providing much actionable information.

      • 99% likelihood of a crime is enough for most people…it would definitely increase the chances the perps get caught.

      • 1) Presumably we’re all smart enough to assume a photo is from a specific moment in time.
        2) Really, we’re more worried about being politically correct than in upholding the law?

        Dear God, what have we come to as a society when we’re more interested in protecting than criminals than possible offending someone. I remember being young and harassed by the police by default of age. Did it seem nice? No, but was it logical? Retrospectively, yes.

        • as much as i’d like to assume that every person sending in these pictures is a perfectly upstanding citizen with no reason to attempt to frame anyone for a crime…i just don’t. i don’t think it’s appropriate for a non-police entity to post pictures to a site like this. as another poster noted, things can be taken out of context, they can be contrived.

    • Another reason is that if it IS a case that will be prosecuted, posting pictures of alleged criminals will taint witnesses and potential jurors. It can do more harm than good to the actual legal process.

      • +1
        Also, PoP might be worried about libel. If he posts a clearly identifying photo and that person is actually innocent, he potentially opens himself up to damages. Not worth the risk, IMO.

  • a cable lock isn’t a deterrent, it’s a false sense of security. The thickest cable can be cut in under 3 seconds with the proper bolt cutters.

  • U-locks people.. U locks.

    • Standard U locks are false security. The larger u-locks ones can be broken with a car jack or cut with power tools in under two minutes. Spend the $80 and get this: http://www.amazon.com/Kryptonite-York-Chain-Evolution-Series/dp/B00TWQ4IRO

      • just as the U lock, that chain can be destroyed as well.

        Also. The degree of difficulty of popping U locks with a car jack is much hired that using bolt cutters.

        But yea these are all semantics. There are varying levels of risk, and cable locks are at the bottom of that pole.

    • U locks are also worthless if the thief has the proper equipment, which is readily available at Home Depot and other fine stores. Bicyclists in D.C. must accept two things….

      1. It is virtually impossible to protect your bicycle from being stolen if you lock it outdoors and out of sight.
      2. The existence of a small but significant minority of people of residents who are bike thieves means that you shouldn’t trust the people of Washington, D.C. to leave your bike unmolested.

      Frankly, if you don’t want your bike to at risk of theft, you should never lock it up outside or leave it unattended. If you do, you’re essentially ASKING to have your bike stolen. I’ve tried every lock out there, and that hasn’t stopped me from losing three bikes.

      • Definitely not true in my experience. A good bike for the city is made out of steel, weighs 30 lbs, and has a crap paint job. Nobody is going to steal it, and you aren’t going to be upset if it gets dinged while in a bike stall. Also: make sure you know how to use a u lock. Sheldon brown can help.

  • My bike was stolen at the same intersection in September ’14, in front of the Avalon apartment building. The U-lock had been sawed off/cut off, there was nothing left. One week later I saw a guy riding my bike on 14th by Lyman’s/Red Derby. I stopped him, grabbed my bike firmly (I even put a stick through the wheel), and he was reluctant to let go until I had the cops on the phone. He told me he “bought the bike for $50” (which I’m sure he might have) and just gave me the bike back. Cops eventually showed up two hours later to close the police report that I had initially filed the previous week. Moral of the story is, bikes that are stolen in DC are also sold in DC. Be on the lookout!

    • Also recovered my stolen bike on that same block, several blocks from where it was stolen months before. MPD lost my police report so I literally had to steal it back.

  • I saw the same thing a few weeks ago at the Home Depot off Rhode Island Avenue. Someone had locked their bike up to one of those cart return stands in the parking lot. I saw three young looking kids walking up and down the parking lot, one with a backpack, and I knew exactly what they were up to. Sure enough, they whipped out bolt cutters, cut the chain, and took off. It happened in less than twenty seconds. As soon as I saw the bolt cutters, I called DC 911 but by the time I gave them all the information, the kids were gone. In fact, I was more annoyed with the 911 operator because she seemed to be wasting time by asking non-relevant questions so when we finally got to the reason for the call, the kids were gone.

    • Not sure why this reminds me of how El Chapo escaped prison. The time guards wasted was, by shocking coincidence, the same time it was needed to ride the bike out of the tunnel.

  • I don’t usually go on this site, but I did today and noticed this very likely could be my friend’s bike. She noticed it was stolen from that rack and reported it to police immediately. Of course, chances of the bike showing up were 50/50. Anyways, it’s funny how things work out and I’m glad I saw this, because it’s her bike! Hopefully it will be returned to its rightful owner soon.

  • Late on thursday night, i used the 50-411 text hotline to report that I had seen what appeared to be a break-in on New Hampshire Ave NW (near Hamilton). i saw two police cruisers appear within 5 minutes. just saying, they’re doing stuff.

    • I’ve started to realize they respond faster when you send a text to that number than when you actually call 911. It seems like they respond even faster if you send a photo with the tip/crime/etc.

    • For next time: MPD was originally promoting 50411 as a texting equivalent for 911. More recently, however, they’ve said that they want to people to use 50411 only to offer tips on crimes that have already happened, and to call 911 for everything else.

      • Well, what I used it for last week was for tips like ATVs, bikes, fights about to break out, etc. Things like that. I thought they were all about texting that number when you see ATVs on the streets?

        • I think they were offering a reward if one’s 911 call led to an ATV being apprehended.
          I heard the new guidance about 50411 earlier this year (when the district commander came to a meeting of a neighborhood group), and I haven’t heard anything to contradict it since then.

  • Not an internet tough guy, but in a public space during daylight hours, where I assume there to be other people are about, why not say something?

    I’m quiet sure I’ve interrupted multiple attempts over the years by simply saying, “get the hell away from my bike (or friends bike)” despite the bike obviously not being mine or anyone I know. Without fail, kid says, “oh damn, sorry just checking it out” or “my bad wrong bike.”

    Very common in Adams Morgan/Columbia road. I was sitting outside of SongByrd the other night and a group of three teenagers were casing bikes, saying out loud, “hey $300 for this one” etc.

    Of course, you could be wrong and be made to feel like a fool, but with the amount of bike theft in this city, any suspicious activity noticed is probably grounds to intervene.

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