I went back down memory lane as I recently heard a friend’s story of their bike being stolen, which brought back the painful memory of my bicycle thievery story from about two years ago, which I thought I would sahre. To frame the scene, I am living in the expensive San Francisco, and fortunate enough to live in a place with roommates that has a garage. I can’t tell you how nice it is to not have to worry about street parking but more importantly gives me a space to store all my toys in this expensive square foot conscientious city. So rather than squeezing my bicycles, surfboards, sports equipment, and other outdoor goodies in the apartment, I was happily cramming them in our garage. Since the garage is fairly secure and took two sets of doors to actually get into the garage from the front, felt pretty secure that everything in there was safe and didn’t need to additionally lock ‘em up… Apparently, that assumption turned out to be very wrong.
One day I geared myself up to go for a ride in the city, moseyed my way down to the garage, looked in the spot where I keep my bikes, and quickly came to the realization that both my mountain and road bike weren’t there. I started going through the memory bank of, “Did I lend them out to someone? Did I leave them at a friend’s place after my last ride? Did I leave it locked outside the bar last time I went drinking?” but know that my memory isn’t THAT bad that I could forget about both of my bikes. Then the violating realization slowly hit me, “Someone took them!”. They physically broke into our place and took them. I have no idea when it happened and who could have known that they were in there but they knew exactly what they were looking for. My suspicions were only further confirmed when we looked on the front door of our place and found a spot on the knob where they used a screwdriver to pry open the lock… This is when the anger started to set in. They could have taken plenty of my stuff and I wouldn’t have been that upset, but come on man, my bikes!?!? The more the neighbors and I check the garage, we realize they took several more things… My motorcycle helmet, some tools, and honestly can’t remember what else now, because I was still fuming about the bikes. The police come out to file a report and takes down all our information. Once the police leave, I am still mad but am trying to come to terms with the fact that I will never see my rides again.
As time passes since the break-in, I have visited several pawn shops in the area and have been watching Craig’s List just in case the remote chance that they turn up on there, but to no avail. After a few weeks of checking in and me growing more pessimistic by the day that they would ever show up, sure enough a single listing for my exact model and color road bike shows up on Craigs List. Unfortunately, I did not register my bikes’ serial numbers with the city police department since I thought I was pretty safe on that front, so I wouldn’t be able to identify my bike this way. Though thankfully for me and unfortunately for the person that posted this, they included some very HQ and detailed picture of this bike, which I could specifically point out and identify certain scratches and marks that I had acquired through rather unfortunate at the time crash from a blown tire. My first reaction is to act like I want to buy the bike myself and get a little of my own vigilante justice… But cooler heads prevail and I call the police to find out what I can actually do, though do this only after I started phase one of vigilante justice plan and called the guy acting like I wanted to buy it. I find out from the police that there is really nothing they can do, since the CL posting is from South San Francisco, and it is out of their jurisdiction. At this point THAT is definitely not going to stop me from getting it back, so I call the police in South San Francisco and give them the whole story. The guy on the phone doesn’t really give me the time of the day until I mention two things: 1) I have pictures on me on my stolen bike with certain markings I can specifically use to identify it and 2) I conveniently have the guys contact info(name and phone #) since I acted like I was a buyer earlier. With this they tell me to come down to the station and they’ll see what they could do but not to have that high of hopes.
I quickly jump into the car, parked in the broken into garage, and speed my way down to their station. Once I get there, I tell the detective my whole story AND give him the name and phone number of the guy, who is going by the criminal mastermind name of….Brolio… He takes that and runs it through their criminal mastermind database and find out that Mr. Brolio has a warrant out for his arrest for something completely different, so things just got a bit more interesting. Since my bike wasn’t registered with the city, it would have been fairly difficult to pinpoint the bike specifically on him even with my pictures, but since he already had a warrant out, it was go time. So with this new info, the police start talking STING. Awesome! When I hear that word, I immediately think of the classic Robert Redford flick, The Sting, and I get real excited and prepare to bring out my inner Redford. We concoct the plan that my dad(policeman) is coming with me to check it out and I will get to wear a wire to get the guy. Even more exciting! I make another call to Brolio to arrange a time and place to meet at a local Wal-Mart parking lot, since the police want to go to a neutral location reducing the chances that the guy will evade the arrest, but he doesn’t want to meet anywhere other than the address he gave me first, so game on. To prepare for this, the police go to of all places, Google Maps street view, to get an idea of the house and possible escape routes.
With the meet up spot remaining his place, I am told the disappointing news that I will no longer be included in the sting because it could be too dangerous for a non-heat packing simpleton like myself. As the time approaches when Brolio and I(undercover cop with quite the beer gut) agreed to meet up, I am staked out in another cop car several blocks away waiting for it all to go down. While we are patiently waiting, the other detective tells me some really cool cop detective stories, which make me really consider a different career path than future, chief bike reflector… Finally it crackles over the radio that, “We got ‘em”, which has me very relieved to hear that I could finally be re-united with my wheels. We roll up in the unmarked town car and there are several cop cars with their lights flashing, blocking off the street traffic, with one Mr. Brolio in cuffs on the front hood of the car. The only thing left now is to get a warrant from the judge to search the property. Once this comes through, the police check out his place and find not only my bike, but a slew of others, components, expensive rims, you name it… Turns out Brolio had quite the operation going and was probably a fence for some bike ring. Once the police take inventory of everything, the detective rolls my familiar ‘ole road bike out of the house. As I got to take a closer look at it, he had removed the aero bars that I had on there for a recent triathlon and swapped out my pedals and seat for cheap ones, so guess he started to sell the bike piecemeal. Sure enough, I was able to point out the exact scratches on my left handlebar and frame(thank you crash) like I showed them in my pictures. A little paperwork and one statement later, and I was cleared to take it home. Unfortunately, he did not have my mountain bike stored away in his garage as well, guess he had already sold that one, but I was a happy camper. I got my road bike back AND took down an illegal bike ring at the same time AND saw justice prevail with Brolio by following the proper legal route. Craig’s List serves as an easy way for thieves to sell their stolen merchandise, but in this case this thief did not expect a very pissed off cyclist to track him down using the very tool he was using to sell my bike. Now that same bike(and a new mountain bike) are sitting in my moated, electrified fenced, attack dog guarded, super-duper safe garage…so don’t you even think about trying to steal it again…