That time I recovered a Stolen Bike

I happy ending. If you follow me on Facebook or look at any of the things I share you can see that a lot of it is not happy news. For example, stolen bikes.

I really would prefer to be sharing happy news, photos of people smiling while riding their bikes, the ride list, reviews and recommendations about great new restaurants  or activities going on in the community. Honestly, it weights very heavily on me all the negative things that I share. However, while I feel like I’m the harbinger of bad news, and it beats me down, I feel the message is so important because if we all look out for each other our community can be so much better.

As I do share all the stolen bikes I am continually on the lookout for these bikes. I would even go so far as to say that it is been on my bucket list to find a friends stolen bike. However, my success rate is not that good. In the five plus years I know my efforts have only lead to two bikes being recovered, and that was not because I found them but because the people I shared it with did. So I basically feel I’m 0 for a few hundred.

I finally was able to recover a stolen bike myself. The joy that I feel from this is beyond description. Is the satisfaction you get when you’ve been working on something for years, have found it elusive, but then one day find success. I’d go as far as to say I’m giddy.

What made it better is the way that it happened. There were so many coincidences that it really felt like it was just what I was supposed to be doing.

Here’s the story.

It starts with a real estate referral a few days before of a cyclist who was relocating to Tucson. Only a few hours after the introduction via email, I was tagged in a post that his bike was stolen. Of course, I immediately shared it and thought to myself “this is going to make them really want to move to Tucson”.  As always, I took note of the bike in the special features, hoping that perhaps this would finally be the bike I would reunite with the owner.

The morning before I found the bike we were emailing back and forth. He was still not committed to any agent and had even seen a home with another agent.  We were planning on when we could meet to discuss his options.

I was on my way to a meeting to discuss planning for the Ride of Silence on May 17. As I was driving south on Campbell and approaching Glenn I had a last second urge to turn down Glenn. I had heard that my friend Andy Suter’s bike that was stolen a couple weeks ago, had been seen in this area. Since I heard that, I have routinely been going down the side streets looking for it as I’ve been going back-and-forth to appointments.

As I approached Tucson Boulevard I saw a guy riding a bike towards me that looked odd. I’m the last person to judge someone, as I have friends who live outdoors and friends worth hundreds of millions of dollars. I have friends of all color and all religion. That said, there are some things in life that just don’t look right. Since I am the photographer of the cycling community, perhaps I have a better idea than anyone of what looks normal on a bike. With hundreds of thousands of images of cyclist, I’ve taken pictures of almost every rider in Tucson at some point. What was it that made this guy look so out of place? It started with his pedal stroke, posture and a lack of fluidity, but the lack of a helmet and his clothing were not in line with the bike he was on. It also looked like the model of the bike that my new prospective client had reported stolen.

For me, this rider just did not look like he belonged on this whip.

Although I figured it was a long shot, I decided to pull a U-turn and go investigate.

I passed him and went down a few blocks and pulled off so I could take a video as he went bye. It definitely was not Andy’s bike, but it was another bike that I knew had recently been stolen. I had a photo of the other bike on my phone and was able to compare them and definitely, 100%, no questions at all, this was the stolen bike.

As my heart began to race I dialed 911.  The officer I spoke to asked me who’s bike it was and if they made a police report. I had the name of the owner, but the police were unable to locate a report and said to me that they could do nothing. This was incredibly frustrating. I understand they have protocol and that a stolen bike may not be there highest priority, but being told they could not investigate at all seemed harsh.  I continued to trail the “cyclist” from a distance, and thought of the next move. I did not have the number for the owner of the bike, but was aware that Andy Suter, whose bike I was looking for, knew him.

By this time we were near First ave and Grant so I thought of who was the closest person I knew who could help me. I called Andy Suter down an Epic rides. I think at first he was super excited because he thought I found his bike. As I was talking to Andy, the rider stopped in middle of the street, turned around and started riding back towards me. I figured it was time for action and I wasn’t going to get anyone else to help me.

The rider came right up to my car window and I said to him “you have a choice. I know whose bike this is. I know it is stolen. You can get off the bike and walk away and the cops are not going to have to be involved, or you can talk to the police who are on the way.”  He did not say anything, but look me straight in the eyes, and seemed to contemplate what I was saying. For 15 seconds he just looked at me. He then slowly stepped off the bike, gently laid it down next to my car, and walked away.

I watched until he was a fair distance away, and then got out, put the bike in the car. The entire time of this was happening I was still on the phone with Andy, but had forgotten he was there when I started to talk to the guy. When I returned to the car Andy was still on the line.  He was a little concerned as there have been no sound after I told the guy his options. Sorry Andy,  I didn’t mean to cause you any concern!!! As I was making a left turn onto Grant, a police car was going by and I waved him down. I gave him the vital information about what had happened. On one level, I did not care as I was just happy to retrieve the bike, but on the other side I want this guys information in some database so that he is recorded as a known bike thief.

I was able to get the phone number of the owner of the bike and gave him a ring. He was out at Starr Pass on his way for a run. I’m not sure if he was as excited as he was in disbelief. He said “it’s crazy man, Holy S^*t”. I had a busy day and it was not until late that day that he came and picked up his bike. I’m still not sure who was more stoked.

So now I can check off my bucket list, “recover stolen bike”. However, the feeling was so exceptional, I’ll be looking even closer from now on.

Final thought, because I know it’s going to come for people who read this. Yes! I recognize that I put myself in harms way and it could have ended in a different way. There are definitely people out there who are high on all sorts of different drugs,and other people who are only too happy to get into a fight. When I stopped to talk to him, my car was still in gear and I was ready to gun it if the need came up. I was waiting and watching his movements very closely. I would definitely not consider myself a bad ass. And actually go the other way and say I’m a pacifist. However, years of pent-up anger towards bike thieves definitely gave me the courage to make sure that this bike did not get away.





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