Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Gutsy confrontation leads to another stolen bike recovery

Posted by on June 2nd, 2006 at 7:43 am

Today I’ve got yet another great stolen bike recovery story to share. This one exemplifies the reason I began these listings in the first place; we can’t rely on the Police to get our bikes back. Nothing against them, but they cannot match the power of a savvy and connected bike community working together to reclaim bikes and bring thieves to justice.

And of course it doesn’t hurt to have a gutsy ZooBomber on your side…

Here’s an edited account from local cyclist and ZooBomber Corey (here’s the full version):

“Last Saturday a friend of mine and I were drinking beer outside of a party. We see a tweaker-looking guy roll up on an $800 road bike. My friend says “Hey, that guy’s a bike thief, I’ve caught him stealing bikes in front of my old job, I hate that guy.”

Then in my loudest voice, I start calling out “Bike thief, hey everyone look at the bike thief!”

The guy stops, and says, “What the heck are you talking about?” I get up to confront him, and my other friend PJ, another ZooBomber, gets behind his bike, preventing him from going anywhere.”

Corey then questioned the suspected thief about the bike and wasn’t satisfied with the answers. After a heated exchange, the guy finally got off the bike and eventually started to run away, with PJ chasing and shouting after him.

After a call to the cops revealed the bike was not reported stolen, they discussed what to do with it. Then suddenly they realize the bike is gone! Some random lady had locked it to her bike. She said she works at a bike shop in Seattle and wanted to take it home. Corey was suspicious and told her:

“I think this bike should stay in Portland until we find its rightful owner.”

Eventually this lady gives in and moves on and Corey and PJ decide to store the bike at their house until they can find the owner.

The next day Corey posted it to the Lost and Found section on Craigslist and then checked the Stolen Bike Listings here in BikePortland.org. Lo and behold he found a listing that was similar and called the number in the listing. Sure enough, the bike and the owner were a match!

I heard from the bike’s owner, and she was obviously thrilled to get her bike back. She had been scanning the web, looking for it for over a week:

“Just as hope was fading, 10 days after the theft, I received an email from Corey saying that he had extracted a bike from a thief and that possibly it was mine. Once we spoke, he quizzed me on the components and while I think I only scored a 90%, it was enough to reassure him that I was the proper owner.

I am thrilled to be reunited with my bike and overwhelmed by the effectiveness of the grassroots justice system of Portland. Again, many thanks to those who identified a suspicious situation, stood up for the cause, and who everyday make the choice to look out for one another purely for the sake of doing what is right.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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  • Brett June 2, 2006 at 8:33 am

    I think that it’s extremely important for the entire bike community to get involved in helping each other out. That being said, it’s really important to decide before hand how far one is willing to go. We’ve all heard the stories about the burglar that cuts himself on the window and sues the owner of the house… and wins. After reading the long account above there might be grounds to charge the good guys with theft (yes, it’s possible to steal stolen merchandise), and even kidnapping (because they prevented him from leaving by blocking his path front and back). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging this as a good or a bad thing, I’m glad it turned out the way it did… but if it really was his bike… well that’s a personal opinion. I wonder about the words “grass roots justice system”… when does a righteous act become a vigilante action. I don’t think this was one, but I wouldn’t argue with someone who did. I see a lot of positive things on this site. Being new to all of this I appreciate all of it.

    Thanks to everyone !!!

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  • no one in particular June 2, 2006 at 8:55 am

    Brett: stories we’ve “all heard” are quite often urban legends. The one you mention sure sounds like one.

    What’s with the censoring of the word “motherfucker” from the zoobomb post, though? Weird.

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  • Jonathan Maus June 2, 2006 at 8:59 am

    To “no one in particular”,

    You’ll notice I clearly stated my version of Corey’s account was edited. I feel like my readers have come to not expect that sort of language in my posts so I chose to edit it out.

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  • no one in particular June 2, 2006 at 9:01 am

    Yeah, I guess. I just assumed “edited” meant for length. When I see things in quotes, I assume they’re not actually changed (or changes appear in square brackets… “I hate that [guy].”) But whatevs.

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  • Kaliana June 2, 2006 at 9:35 am

    Awesome story, though I’m completely miffed that some random woman decided to steal the bike herself and take it back to Seattle?????????? Did I read that right?

    Anyway, I love hearing anytime someone gets their bike back. Makes my day. Corey deserves a beer or 12.

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  • Gregg June 2, 2006 at 10:31 am

    I understand about a scruffy looking guy on a nice bike and the suspicion it can arise but I have an $1100 Cannondale and I wouldn’t be able to state the brand of any part on it except for the frame and brakes. (I chose my bike based on the vast experience of a good friend) I hope nobody tries to take my bike based on me failing to provide trivial knowledge because they’ll be in for a big un-Gandhi-like suprise!

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  • Jasun Wurster June 2, 2006 at 11:21 am

    Hey no one in particular,

    I can not quite read thought your sarcasm what you are trying to communicate.

    Perhapses, it is that bike community site you have up and running is way too intelligent for me to understand.


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  • John Q Public June 2, 2006 at 12:56 pm

    Nice job Corey and PJ!

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  • Scout June 2, 2006 at 3:21 pm

    Some random lady had locked it to her bike. She said she works at a bike shop in Seattle and wanted to take it home.

    Holy crap. This is the most amazing part of the story. If she really works at a bike shop, this is an outrage, and she should be ashamed of herself. Was she planning on keeping it for herself? Worse, was she planning on making some cash when she got home?

    She’s teetering on the outside brinks of the ring of hell reserved for bike thiefs and doggie humpers.

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  • Donna June 2, 2006 at 4:37 pm

    Corey and PJ – you’re heroes!

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  • Dr. Mark Ross June 2, 2006 at 8:00 pm

    be careful where that line is guys . . . Corey and PJ did something the police is legally entitled to do — detain someone without just cause.

    it probably wasn’t too wise to post this detailed story on the net . . . why give the bad guys (and perhaps the DA) ammo to use against “stolen bicycle recovery experts” down the road. They ought to keep the details to themselves.

    and that lady . . . what’s up with that??? worth a WW investigation no doubt. mark?

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  • Dr. Mark Ross June 2, 2006 at 8:02 pm

    I made a boo-boo, it should say: “. . . the police is NOT entitled to do . . .”

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  • 2ndAveFlyer June 3, 2006 at 1:42 pm

    The bike recovery stories are good to hear. I think it would also be useful for cyclists to have a short listing of how these thefts take place. Are the bikes inside or outside of a home? Are they locked? With what? Left outside a public place? Where and for how long?

    Perhaps patterns will emerge which will allow bikers to take a more informed and proactive role in keeping their bikes safe.

    Knocking on wood and locking out-of-sight;


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  • Pj June 6, 2006 at 3:08 pm

    Hey I’m Pj, How y’all doin. I’ve noticed somthing in these replies that bothers me a bit. Y’all are more concerned about legality than you are about somone getting their bike back. If that had been that guys bike and he brought the police back with him and certificate of ownership, awesome. I think it’s better to err on the side of caution in cases like this. Am I a vigulante? I’ve been know to wear a cape and spandex pants (see: Zoobomb) but that’s beside the point. Most of us that ride bikes can’t afford to replace them. If my bike was stolen I’d be shit out of luck and a way to work in the morning. I’m not saying we should have crews of kids riding around being bike police, I’m just saying step up and say somthing when things look sketchy. peace.

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  • […] Reporter Angela Valdez covers the recent bike theft recovery story and says some nice things about BikePortland.org. […]

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  • Toby June 20, 2006 at 2:49 pm

    Just a small suggestion for folks who aren’t sure if their rear derailleur is Shimano or Campy (or even what it is), but would still like to prove they own their bikes. I always write my name, address, and phone number on something durable (sharpie on tyvek is a good choice) and then roll it up and tuck that into the seat tube, just below the where the seatpost sits. Any arguments could then be settled with an allen wrench…

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  • beth June 26, 2006 at 1:13 pm

    PJ: The reason that people worry about legality is because if you cross the line, you could be prosecuted and possibly worse. There IS a legal line that we should at least be aware of when we attempt to help people recover stolen property. We don’t necessarily want to break the law in the process of confronting someone else who did…!

    Also — the guys who detained the “thief”, while accomplishing the mission, definitely put themselves at risk of harm in the process. What if the rider had been armed? A little caution goes a long way here. NO bicycle is worth risking injury or death, IMHO.

    The best protection for your bike remains a combination of a stout lock, constant awareness of its whereabouts at all times, and an acceptance that some things may always be beyond our control. Like bike theft.

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