Vancouver woman turns to Craigslist to reclaim stolen bike – more people doing the same

A story of a Vancouver woman who took matters into her own hands to get her stolen bike back has gone viral online.

One day after Kayla Smith’s bike was stolen near the Olympic Village, friends told her about a similar bike posted on Craigslist for $300. Smith responded to the posting herself and set up a meeting. When they met she asked to take it for a test ride, and just rode off.

Vancouver Police say they do not recommend anyone to do the same.

Const. Brian Montague with the VPD said they would like anyone who sees their stolen property online to call the police. “We can work with the victim to facilitate getting their property back. Not only can we help get the property back, but ensure the safety of the victim, immediately identify the person in possession of the bike, and request a criminal charge if there is evidence to support those charges,” he said via email. “It is much easier to prove a theft or that someone is in possession of stolen property when police find them in possession of that property rather than trying to identify and prove the crime after the fact based on a few pieces of information.”

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“That arrest may solve and prevent many more crimes than the one stolen bike.”

However, many people who are victims of bike thefts are turning to social media more and more to help solve the crime.

Amelia Birch has a very similar story to Kayla’s.

“To me, social media did more get my bike back than the police,” she said. “And I do not have a vendetta against the police.”

Her $2,000 bike was stolen from the secure bike room in her condo’s garage last February. She was incredibly disappointed with the loss as she used her bike so much. She filed a bike theft report with the Vancouver Police right away, including a serial number, and a description of the crime.

She then turned to social media and tweeted and ‘Facebooked’ her loss. The company who made the bike, Brodie, responded and re-tweeted the post, along with a number of others in the cycling community.

She heard nothing until May when she was tweeted by a stranger saying they think they had found her bike for sale on Craigslist. Two of her friends phoned the person listing it for sale to find out more about it.

One of her friends wanted to just go and get the bike back, like Kayla did, but as Amelia was out of town she asked her husband to call the police.

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As the location of the seller was in Burnaby, Amelia said they told her husband to call Burnaby RCMP. “Burnaby told us ‘you need to make sure and confirm it is your bike and make sure the serial numbers match’,” said Amelia.

So her husband went to check out the bike and turns out, it was the same one.

Her husband went back a second time with a police officer who was there, but did not approach the man himself. Amelia did get her bike back, but said she felt let down about the police response.

“Bike theft, it sucks, but it’s not a priority, it’s petty theft,” she said. However, she wants police to be more involved and follow up with these crimes.

“At the end of the day what I was disappointed in was that there was not any follow up and I’m positive, I don’t know, but it wouldn’t take much to convince me [the seller] had other stolen goods as he had multiple Craigslist postings,” said Amelia.

Vancouver Police do say bike thefts are down this year from previous years, and recommend people engrave documentation on their property and get a good quality lock. “We are encouraging citizens to take a couple of minutes to document their personal property and valuables.  Record detailed information like make, model, serial number and colour.  We encourage you to engrave the property if the process won’t damage it.  For property with no serial numbers and not appropriate for engraving, we encourage you to photograph it, such as items like jewellery, paintings and family heirlooms,” they said in a release on their website.

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The VPD auctions off more than 300 bikes every year as they cannot trace them back to their owners.

“Police recover hundreds of bikes every year and are unable to give the bike back to the owner simply because we do not know who the bike belongs to. Record your bike’s serial number so that you can provide it to police if it is stolen. If recovered, police can immediately link that serial number to a reported crime and reunite the owner with their bike,” said Montague via email.

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