How many stolen bicycles do you think are recovered? Not many. According to this survey of around 2,000 riders in Montreal, only 2.4% of stolen bicycles were recovered. It’s a sad, sad statistic.
Jenni, based in Bristol (UK), had her bicycle stolen last April 2017. A beautiful road bike, made by German manufacturer Cube. When she saw it for sale online, she was determined to get it back. This is the story of her daring mission to retrieve her bicycle from the thief who stole it (some names have been changed, apart from Jenni’s and Matt's).
The Scene of the Crime
Date: Sunday 9th April 2017
Time: 11am - 7pm
Jenni went to meet some friends for brunch at a bicycle shop / cafe called Muddock. She had cycled there and left her bike locked up nearby, picking a place she thought was secure as it was busy and had CCTV monitoring the space. She used a cable lock.
After a full day of brunching, walking and relaxing around Bristol Harbour she returned to collect her bike, only to discover it had been stolen. The brazen thief must have cut through the cable lock in full view of passersby, taking the bike and the lock with them, leaving no trace (if only she had used a Litelok bike lock instead, this story may never have happened!).
Sometimes thieves just don’t care if anyone sees them stealing a bike. They probably know they won’t be challenged and won’t be caught. Like this video shows, also in Bristol, of a thief stealing a bike on a busy Saturday afternoon and getting away with it.
The Police Vs Facebook
Date: Sunday 9th April 2017
Time: 7pm onwards
Jenni walked home and then called the police, informing them of the crime. They were sympathetic but unable to help. Investigating bike crime is probably low priority for them, unfortunately. Jenni was despondent. Her last hope was to spread the word. She was a member of a local cycling group on Facebook and posted the following message to the group:
Only minutes later a fellow member responded with a screenshot of an advert, commenting: “Pretty sure that’s your bike.” to which Jenni replied “Oh my god. That’s my bike….”. This helpful amateur sleuth, Chris, had seen the bike for sale earlier that day on Facebook Marketplaces (a place to sell second-hand items), being sold by a man called Bebop. From the screenshot, Bebop likely posted the advert around 6.30pm that Sunday night.
So Jenni and Chris formed a plan to get her bike back.
Chris messaged Bebop and arranged a date and time for Jenni to go “buy” it. Chris pretended that Jenni was his sister in need of a new bike. As the conversation between Chris and Bebop developed, it turned out that Bebop wouldn’t be meeting Jenni after all, instead it would be Bebop’s friend Rocksteady.
By the end, a meeting was set for around 9am the following day. Jenni was to go face to face with Rocksteady, who was possibly the bike thief himself.
Jenni made a second phone call to the police to let them know of her plan. The police decided to investigate further as Jenni now had so much information about the thieves. However, the Police weren’t going to join Jenni at the meeting and also discouraged her from going, saying it might be dangerous. Jenni didn’t care, she was going anyway. The police understood, and couldn’t stop her.
Date: Monday 10th April 2017
Time: 9am - 11.30am
Jenni was in a cafe nearby for 9am, waiting patiently. She was ready to do this. It wasn’t until 11am that Bebop messaged Chris. Chris immediately passed on the message to Jenni. She was to go meet Rocksteady now.
She enlisted the help of her good friend Matt. He was the lookout, a second pair of hands if anything went wrong. They met up enroute to Rocksteady. As they drew closer to the meeting point, Matt walked up ahead to make it seem like they weren’t together. He saw Rocksteady and Jenni’s bike, walked passed them both and then stopped a bit further along. From his vantage point he could see it all. Rocksteady, a dishevelled looking character, stood near a group of men on the pavement beside a busy road. Rocksteady held onto Jenni’s bike with both hands, leaning on it slightly.
Jenni casually strolled up to Rocksteady. She saw the bike and knew for certain it was hers. She had nothing on her person apart from a bunch of old, redundant keys in one hand, and a packet of old cigarettes in the other. Jenni began chatting with Rocksteady. She asked him dippy questions like “how do the brakes work?” and “why is the saddle so high?”: an effort to make her appear harmless and naive. Rocksteady responded in a friendly manner.
It was clear he didn’t see Jenni as any sort of threat. However he was still holding her bike, so Jenni thrusted the contents of her hands (the keys and cigarettes) into his and said “Please hold these, I’m going to try it.”. Rocksteady didn’t object.
Jenni got on her bike, wobbled down the pavement a bit, falling off a couple of times to maintain her harmless and naive appearance. And then she sprinted off down the road. Cycling faster than ever before. The bike was hers again. So long, suckers.
Date: Monday 10th April 2017
Time: 11.30am onwards
Matt had watched the whole thing unfold. No doubt jubilant that Jenni had succeeded. He witnessed something wonderful: Rocksteady staring at his hands full of worthless items, his face contorted with confusion. Matt had also heard another person, not part of the story until now, shout to Rocksteady: “She’s not coming back!”.
Matt walked off, smirking.
After about 20 minutes Bebop messages Chris, upset that Chris’s “sister” had ridden off with the bike:
A happy ending after all. Well done to Jenni and everyone who helped her. You can follow Jenni on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/jenniandteddi/
Do you have your own success story about recovering a stolen bicycle? Leave it in the comments.