Citizen bike detective in B.C. sets up sting operation, nets alleged thief

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Bike thieves beware: the next time you steal someone’s ride, you could end up on the radar of a citizen detective like Nev Lapwood.

Lapwood’s $9,000 electric mountain bike was stolen in Whistler, B.C., about a month ago.

The alleged thief has been caught and is facing potential charges, but even the police admit they pretty much only provided an assist on the file.

It all started when the bike vanished from outside a Creekside gym.

Lapwood found the bolt cutters used in the heist and took them to the RCMP, but was told without video evidence, there wasn’t much they could do.

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“I came to realize that a stolen bike is not a huge priority case,” Lapwood told Global News.

Undeterred, he dug into the detective work himself.

Click to play video: 'Vernon man with limited mobility hoping public tips will bring back stolen bike'
Vernon man with limited mobility hoping public tips will bring back stolen bike

Lapwood’s Rocky Mountain Powerplay E-bike requires a special proprietary charger, so he phoned every distributor in the region and told them to be on the lookout for someone buying the accessory without a bike.

It wasn’t until about a month later that Lapwood got two important calls.

Both came from bike shops on the North Shore, and involved a suspicious person trying to buy a charger without a bike. The first shop turned him down, while the second sold them the unit.

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Lapwood rushed down to North Vancouver, where he was able to get a suspect description and phone number, along with surveillance showing his face and vehicle.

At that point, Lapwood went full Perry Mason — digging through social media and court files to assemble a profile of his nemesis.

“(It) led me to the point where I actually had an exact match of who the person was who was in possession of the bike, who I had determined was likely also the same person who had stolen the bike and bought the charger,” he said.

He also learned that Whistler RCMP had been able to pull a print off the bolt cutters used to cut his bike lock.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver man films confrontation with an apparent bike thief'
Vancouver man films confrontation with an apparent bike thief

But the investigation hit a snag: RCMP told him that while they had the prints and the evidence he had collected, it wasn’t enough for a warrant to search the suspect’s home.

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“I just kind of realized that I’m on my own, and if I want to keep digging in on this, I’m going to have to do it myself,” he said.

Then, another lucky break: on Sunday, the bike was posted for sale online.

“Within two hours we had arranged a meetup location to purchase the bike off the person selling it,” Lapwood said.

As Lapwood raced back down to the Lower Mainland, he got in touch with West Vancouver police who were willing to attend the meeting.

“(He) kind of did a lot of the work and set this up for us,” said West Vancouver police Const. Kevin Goodmurphy.

Plainclothes officers showed up at the meeting point, quickly spotted the bike attached to a vehicle and arrested the suspect.

Goodmurphy said the suspect has since been released, but that police are recommending charges.

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“We like to go with the old saying ‘no call too small,'” he said.

That turned out to be good news for Lapwood, who said he’s glad police were able to handle the sting in a safe and professional way, rather than forcing him to confront the alleged thief.

“One way or another we were going to get that bike back,” he said.

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