Monday, October 27, 2008

The ABC of Looking For Your Stolen Bicycle

Here's a more complete list of things to do when you're looking for a stolen bicycle. Please let me know in the comments if you think there's anything else that should be added.

Report it
This is the very first thing that you should do. Try to retrieve your bike's serial number before you call the police. Take down the police report number, you'll need it in case you find your bike and need to contact the police and for the flyer that you'll make.

ALWAYS report bike theft! It helps making police aware of how big of a problem this is.

Make a flyer.

Print it, spread it. Hand it out in parks, tape it to light posts, if you're a student, put it up on your campus.

Make sure you include
  • a picture of your bike.
  • any distinguishing features. Think long and hard about this, you'll probably be able to think of lots of things apart from the obvious such as the color of your frame and handlebar tape, like scratches, dents and other damage, stickers etc.
  • your bike's serial number. You need this for identification purposes. If your bike is found you will only get it back if you can prove that it's yours. If you don't have your serial number, try asking the shop you bought your bike from. If you got your bike used, you might run into trouble on this one.
  • the number of your police report.
  • your contact details.

You can take a look at my flyer here.

Look in your area.
Most likely the person who took your bike isn't a professional bike thief, but an opportunistic thief trying to make a quick and easy score. As such, (s)he won't venture far with your bike. Therefore, visit local pawn shops. Rather than asking if they've bought your stolen bicycle, ask if they have any bikes for sale. If they do, look at what they have before you tell them that you're looking for a stolen bicycle and ask them to contact you if anyone would try to sell them a bike similar to yours. Leave a copy of your flyer.

Also, visit local bike shops. Someone may come in with your bike to have it repaired. Bike shop folks are generally super helpful and will keep an eye out for you. Again, leave a copy of your flyer.

Don't forget to tell your friends. Someone might spot your bike in their neighborhood. It's better to have multiple sets of eyes looking than just one.

Look online.
Your bike may end up on the Internet. You can also ask the Internet community to keep an eye out for your bike.
  • Check Craig's list on a daily basis and post the information on your stolen bike there as well. Check the Craig's list postings for surrounding areas as well (New Jersey, Delaware, NYC, Washington DC, etc, especially if you're looking for a high end bike). Here are instructions on how to create a Craig's list notification tool using Feed Popper. Feed Popper will let you know as soon as there's a new post on Craig's list fitting your search criteria. I had this running on my computer while I was looking for my bike.
  • is a combined classifieds and auctions listing service. Go here , change 'Bianchi' to whatever search criteria you want, and subscribe to the resulting page in your RSS feed.
  • Go to ebay, set up a search for your bike and subscribe to it by email.

Register your stolen bike.
Police check the National Bike Registry to identify recovered bicycles. Some people who suspect that they've discovered a stolen bicycle check it too, so register your bike. It's $0.99 for a 6 month search for your bike so just do it.

To Sarah

I just found an email from 8 days ago (it got caught in my spam filter) from Sarah, who recently had her bike stolen and is asking what she can do to try and find it. Right after I finished typing up a reply I discovered that she hadn't left a return email address so I'll just post my reply here. Maybe someone else can benefit from it too.

Hi Sarah,

I'm sorry for my late reply - your email got caught in my spam filter.

Do you have your bike's serial number? You'll need it to identify your bike in case it would get found (even if your bike is found, you won't get it back unless you can identify it). If you bought your bike new, you should be able to get it from the store where you bought it (that's how I retrieved mine).

Check craig's list daily to see if anyone's trying to sell your bike there. Also, you might want to do a search here: You can subscribe to the RSS feed from for your particular search criteria and you'll only get alerts when posts that fit those criteria are added to the various sites that subscribes to. Also, check ebay daily (you can sign up for email notification of your search criteria) and keep an eye on craig's list for surrounding areas (like New Jersey, Delaware, Washington DC). Also, post about your bike being stolen on Craig's list (that's how I got my bike back).

Visit local pawn shops. Make a flyer, print it, and hand it out to every shop you visit. Also, visit local bike shops with your flyer. Someone might come in with your bike to have it repaired.

You might want to check out this thread on Phillyblog:
I think several bike shops are mentioned there. You can also just google for bike shop philadelphia and you should get a map as the first result with a list of bike shops.

Don't give up looking for your bike if you still haven't found it. The people who took mine hold on to it for nearly a month before they sold it to the pawn shop that I retrieved it from.

I really hope you get your bike back. Good luck!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Have you seen these stolen bikes?

During the search for my bike, I got two emails from two ladies who'd also had their bikes stolen.

Please keep an eye out for the following (click to see larger):

Jamis Coda Sport (black/blue)
This bike was stolen almost a month ago. It's a blue and black Jamis Coda Sport with white text. It had a rack over the rear wheel with a black and white round decal, a black plastic front fender, a blinking light on the seat post, a small bell on the handle bars and a kick stand.

There's a thread on Phillyblog about this bike here.

Bianchi Reparto Corse (Celeste)
The second bike is a 2000 Celeste Aqua Bianchi Reparto Corse, 54 cm. It's handlebars were wrapped in yellow tape. It was stolen a month and a half ago and the DC # is 0817039575.

The owner is offering a $100 reward to get her bike back. She can be contacted at phone number 410-991-5972.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Happy Ending

(click for higher res)

Yay, my bike is back! Here's how it was made possible, super short version:
  • I posted on Craig's list again yesterday morning (my first post since I posted twice right after the bike got stolen; I was incredibly lucky with the timing)
  • Someone emailed me after reading the post, saying they'd seen the bike at a pawnshop on South St
  • I rode to said pawnshop. The bike was out for a test ride when I arrived so I waited around. When the customer finally came back, I immediately recognized my bike. It was then identified as mine in the store with the help of the serial number.
There are a few things to be said here. Now, everyone in the pawnshop was super helpful and understanding and friendly. They tried to get a hold of the person who was trying out the bike right away, they chitchatted with me while I waited, overall, they were great. But; I had to buy my bike back for $100, which is what the boss (owner?) of the pawnshop had bought it for.

After my bike had been identified, I rushed home to drop off my other bike (suggested by the pawnshop folks, I wasn't thinking clearly at the moment so off I went when I just could've grabbed both of my bikes and walked them home) and on my way back, I called a general detective to ask whether I had to pay the pawnshop or not. The detective told me I had to buy back my own bike if I wanted it back. I haven't been able to dig up any information on Pennsylvania's pawnbroking laws, so I don't know for sure whether this is true or not. It probably is though, which is absolutely outrageous. Obviously, anyone who buys stolen goods in good faith is a victim (i.e. pawnbrokers in this case) and therefore, the reasoning is that they need to be compensated if the purchased items turn out to be stolen. As a consequence, the original victim gets victimized again by being forced to pay to get their stolen items back.

While I was outside waiting for the guy who was trying out my bike to come back, the main pawnshop guy told me that even though my flyer (that I had just given to them) stated that there was a $200 reward, I'd only have to pay him $100. Did this guy ever attempt to find me, or find out whether the bike was stolen? Hell no. A simple search on Craig's list would've rendered three posts about my bike, with my information. A call to the police would've rendered my police report. Shrewd sir, very shrewd indeed.

Also, apparently the people who came in with the bike were really filthy (I was told to wash my bike with bleach). If 'filthy' people come in to your pawnshop with a high end bike that they end up selling for a hundred bucks, and you DON'T get suspicious, especially considering there's a well known used bikes store just around the corner, you're either ridiculously naive or you simply don't care what type of people or goods you do business with.

After my second visit to the pawnshop, I rode my Bianchi to the police station where I was interviewed. The pawnshop provided me with information on the seller (they are required to do so by law when stolen items are recovered) and luckily, the police was familiar with the person. Hopefully the seller will be taken into custody soon .

Now, hanging out with bike thieves, especially bike thieves on crack, is quite an ordeal, and unfortunately, my baby came back with some injuries:

Top dent probably from when the lock got popped off. The two other dents - who knows?

Seems like if you try to ride a bike while under the influence, you fall over a lot.

Apparently, someone had a problem with my derailleur. The little sucker probably gave them some 'tude, so it's understandable that they'd try to knock it off.

This is probably my favorite. What the heck happened here? Someone decided to see whether their scissors were in functional order? Maybe someone was in urgent need of something to roll a smoke with? Or did someone just decide to bite a chunk off of my bike?

This I think is a case of someone acquiring new sharp gear and getting excited to try it out.

This one's a mystery. Chemicals?

Finally, I guess these cats wanted to make my bike cooler looking by inducing some battle scars. Thanks dudes. It certainly gave my bike more character.

I had a bike shop give me an estimate of the repair costs today. I've got everything documented and hopefully, I'll hear back from the detective soon. I realize that I was incredibly lucky to recover my bike and safe to say, I will never, ever leave another bike outside over night again.

Feel free to check back here again soon; I'll post some more information on how to look for your stolen bike online and other things I did/learned during all of this that hopefully someone else might find helpful.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My bike is back!!!

I just got home from a long and exhausting afternoon of retrieving my bike at a pawnshop and then visiting the police. My bike is back! It has some dents and other damages. It most likely spent the past three weeks in a crack den so it's been through hell and back... but it's back.

I'll post again with the full story after I've had some rest and a night of celebration!

Screw you too 13th Street Pizza

More places were raided last Friday, among them 13th Street Pizza who, just like Latimer Deli, had employees working extra stealing bikes. Apparently, there's a big notice on the door that the store has been closed for being a public nuisance... I guess you may call bike theft a public nuisance.

If you've had your bike stolen, reported or not, contact Central Detectives at 215-686-3094.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Wanted: Suspected Bike Thief

The attached photo is of a theft / burglary suspect that is preying on your neighborhood. Detectives from Central division recently uncovered a bike theft ring in which the suspect Troy Marlow has been stealing several dozen high-end bikes & selling them to different fences throughout South Phila. & Center City.

He currently has only a bench-warrant for narcotics. Central Detectives would like to question him in regards to the thefts & burglaries. He may be staying in an abandoned property on the 1700 block of Montrose St. Anyone seeing him is to call 911. He normally rides a bike.