Colorado Bike Thief Sting

Getting your bike stolen is the worst. As the person affected in this story posted on facebook, "Bike thieves don't just steal a bicycle. They steal joy and peace of mind." This story reads just like a fast-paced Law and Order script, but one with a positive ending. I happened to catch the tail end of it on facebook and asked Shelby Katz and I Ling Matthews-Thompson for the whole thing. Below are their separate accounts. Thanks, ladies and congrats!!

From Shelby:
I Ling posted on Facebook that she and her husband had been broken into and had their bikes stolen right from their garage. A few days later, she posted that she had found the bikes on Craigslist. I Ling’s bike, a Scott Spark, had a posting from a woman who claimed she had purchased her bike for her “lying cheating” boyfriend for over $6,000, and he had made some improvements to the bike, but since she only owed $2,000, she would sell it to the first person to give her $2,000. She then posted her “name” and number (I put the “name” in quotes because she clearly used an alias).

I Ling can give you the details on what the police were doing as they were very active and involved. Unfortunately the thief was not responsive, so I asked I Ling to send me the listing and I would see what I could do. Even though the ad had said to call “Wendy”, I sent an email to start the dialogue. I asked a few questions about the bike because I felt that if I simply stated that I wanted the bike, the thief might think something was up. An hour later, I called the listed number. A message was left for Wendy and we waited. Roughly 6 hours later, Wendy called. Initially she asked if I wanted to drive down to look at the bike, but I told her I needed to know its size before making the long drive. My guess is that “won” her over and convinced her I was not the police. That’s just an assumption on my part, but it worked. I asked various questions about the bike and it was crystal clear to me that this person knew nothing about the bike or cycling for that matter.

We chatted for a while, and I made reference to her “lying, cheating boyfriend” and gave her some made up story about my “lying, cheating boyfriend” and how I had wished I had her “balls” to take the things I had purchased for him back. My hope was to find a “common ground” with this person (or at least lead her to believe we had a common ground). We set up a meeting time and spot for the next day (she would not give me her address as she said it was "creepy" to give out the address to people she didn't know... yeah, you're a thief, I get it, you don't want me to see the other things you've stolen).

In the meantime, I Ling communicated everything with the Jefferson County Police. Initially there was talk of me wearing a wire… which alone made me sweat. I would have done it, but I might have peed myself. In the end, due to my work schedule, the police set up an elaborate plan. They found a detective who “looked” like me and she was used in lieu of me.

Before the meeting time, I communicated with the detectives and they told me to call the thief to confirm the meeting place and time, find out what she looked like and what car she would be driving. By this point, Wendy and I were “old friends”. I relayed back the information and did exactly what the officers asked me to do (various text messages, etc.)

When the meeting time came and went, I was biting my nails down to the quick! I kept texting I Ling to see if she had heard anything. When I got the text from the Officer to ring him, I was sure something had gone wrong. But no, the officer announced that Wendy had walked right up to the “Shelby” detective with the bike and they arrested her immediately. Turns out she had various warrants out for her arrest.

I’m just happy my friend has her bike so we can go ride! Bike thieves stink!

From I Ling:
I can live with only having one bike recovered. The experience, the community support and simply getting justice for myself and future victims of bike theft is worth it.

I have walked away from this with very strong perspectives.

  • Do not tolerate bike thievery. I immediately posted to FB that garage was broken into and descriptions of my stolen bikes. We called the policy and filed a report. I posted an ad to craigslist immediately (those idiot thieves should have seen it 10 postings away from their ads) and I trolled CL.
  • Don't just be a victim, be your advocate. Most importantly, I accepted that I had to do the leg work for the JeffCo Sheriff's Department. My detective has 50+ cases at any given time. I owned my responsibility to make this his and MY priority. Because of that, they have the info they needed to recover the bike and prosecute. JeffCo put seven detectives on the sting. I'm proud that that was my tax dollars at work.
  • Write down your serial numbers RIGHT NOW. We've had these bikes a while, and I didn't write down the serial numbers. The pawn shops are required to take identification from any pawned items. They input serial numbers of all bicycles. The police have records of individuals who have pawned dozens of bikes. But b/c the serial numbers were not reported stolen, they connection to the crime couldn't be made.
  • Lean into your community. I'm fairly new to the Colorado cycling scene. But when my bikes were stolen, I asked my network to share my posts, and when I found the bikes, to contact the ad posters. The ripple effect of sharing and reposting put the crime and my dilemma front and center, and my network was anxious for updates and ready to help. That was support was invaluable and the key to getting my bike back.

I'm forever grateful to Shelby. Truly, it's not about the bike. It's about knowing that I have a community willing to watch my back.

News Item: 

5 Comments

7 detectives? Wow.

7 detectives? Wow.

I had two stolen out of my house and all the Denver police sent me was a post card telling me they were doing nothing about it. The feeling of helplessness is infuriating. Fortunately, being proactive about it (posting in numerous websites) ended in a tip from someone. I ended up finding one, and having that post card and my photos with it, helped when I had the Henderson police step in. I'm glad she was able to at least find one of the bikes, like she said, they do steal your peace of mind. We ended up installing a house alarm and are now still paranoid about every single sound we hear. When I get home, I check every door, the back yard and any point where people could come in. The worst part, is knowing that the police might not even help. So if this happens to you, know that it's only up to you. I took inventory of everything that I owned after that. That means, get serial numbers RIGHT NOW, take plenty of photos and email them to yourself and make sure to make use of social networks.

Here's my story

You need to take action if you want your bike back; Good for you!
Here's my story: I was sitting at home about 1:00 in the afternoon, heard a noise in the garage, so went to the front porch to see my bike being ridden up the street - one riding, one walking. Started running after them, but there was no way I was going to catch them (6', 240#). They stole one bike, but left one, so I grabbed that one and lit out after them. They had separated by then, and the one riding my bike went around the corner; the one walking never heard me coming (6', 240#, on adrenalin and had a block to accelerate). Crumpled like a wet noodle in front of a battering ram.
And it gets better: The neighbors had seen the whole thing and already called 911. But better'n that even, my other neighbor (local detective) had come home for lunch and drove by about 15 seconds after I tackled the walker. Cuffed him and took him in the unmarked car. And, honest to God, the first thing on his docket to do that afternoon was to work on this bicycle theft ring in the area! Giftwrapped! With the information obtained from the walker, they raided a warehouse 2 hours later and recovered over 200 stolen bikes. Had mine back shortly after 9 that evening!