It took less than two hours for a North Vancouver couple to get their stolen bike back, thanks to their own detective work and quick action from RCMP.
“As soon as we heard it was stolen, I thought that was it, we’d never find it,” Matt McMaster told Global News. “Your heart skips a beat. It could literally be anywhere.”
McMaster and his wife, Vanessa, both commute by bicycle. Last Tuesday, Vanessa discovered that their Norco bike, worth an estimated $1,500, had vanished from her work bike cage.
“It’s kind of like losing a car to us,” he said.
She reported the theft to the police, and the pair shared a photo of the bike online on the Muddbunnies cycling group, McMaster said.
Soon, a woman posted saying she’d seen someone riding it along the Welch Street greenway towards the Lions Gate Bridge.
McMaster said he started sleuthing as soon as he crossed the span on his way home from downtown Vancouver that day, and when he pedalled into North Van, he got a big break.
While stopped in the left-turn lane at Marine Drive and Capilano Road, he said he spotted a stranger with his bike.
“He walked right across the crosswalk in front of me with it. I knew right away that that was the bike.”
He said he called police as he watched the suspect sit down at a bus stop, and they called him back in 15 minutes.
“They said, ‘We got your bike.'”
After receiving the call, North Vancouver RCMP stopped the bus on the bridge and arrested the suspect. The bike was immediately returned to the couple, who had the serial number to prove it was theirs.
The detachment told Global News they don’t have any recent bike theft statistics to share, but the Vancouver Police Department said it’s seen a decrease in bike thefts compared to last year. The number of bicycles reported stolen last May and June was down 42 per cent over the same time in 2019.
“I think the police stats are a little off of reality,” Paul Dragan, owner of Reckless Bikes in Vancouver’s Yaletown neighbourhood, told Global News. “Anecdotally, I would say it’s as bad as it’s ever been.”
Dragan said he suspects between 25 to 40 per cent of bike thefts go unreported, especially if people have lost multiple bikes that have not been recovered.
“There’s a feeling of, ‘Why bother, right? We’re never going to see it again.'”
Although he said many stolen bikes end up back east or south of the border, Dragan still urged people to report the thefts.
He also encouraged cyclists to register their bike’s serial number with the VPD’s 529 Garage program, which allows police to use an app to recover stolen bikes and reunite them with their owners.
The McMasters will be registering with 529, saying they’re glad they reported the theft.
Vanessa said she’s proud of her husband’s efforts to track it down before police moved in.
“My hero, he went and got it for me. Thank you,” she said.