In March of last year, I received a devastating phone call from my apartment manager: our garage had been broken into overnight and multiple bikes were stolen. Two belonged to me and my partner, two to our neighbors.
The thieves had been watching the complex for a while and came prepared, breaking in unseen through the back entrance and carrying cable cutters. They were selective in their theft, taking only common name brand bikes that would be easy to sell. The Fuji, Cannondale, Masi and Redline bikes were stolen while 10 other bikes, many of them unlocked, were left untouched.
While I recovered my Redline on Craigslist not long after the break-in, the other bikes were gone for good. Or so we thought.
Earlier this month, almost a year after the break-in, I received an unexpected call from the Seattle Police Department. The police had recovered numerous bicycles during a search warrant late last year and the officer believed that our bikes were among them and invited us to come down to the warehouse to identify the stolen property.
Detective Mel Britt informed me that they had recovered 21 bikes from that one search warrant, the most he’d ever recovered in one day.
The stolen bikes varied from carbon triathlon bikes to one-of-a-kind custom steel frames.
Officer Britt said that with the search warrant, SPD recovered a large amount of stolen goods from a Capitol Hill location, which aside from bicycles, also included computers and other electronics. The items came from all over Seattle and some were obtained during burglaries dating back to 2008.
Britt now has the tedious but rewarding task of comparing the recovered bikes to stolen bike registries, and reuniting the bikes with their owners. This is not an easy task, said Britt, as the man behind the bike thefts has been stripping, rebuilding and sometimes repainting the bikes.
My neighbors and I were pleased to find some of our stolen bikes among the stolen goods. Unfortunately, one of the bikes –the Fuji –had been stripped down to nothing but a plain frame but the Cannondale was still intact, albeit rusted and beat up.
“I thought the bikes were gone for good,” said Kelly, owner of the Cannondale. “I’m shocked I got it back after a year!”
Kelly was excited to be reunited with her beloved Cannondale, on Valentine’s Day nonetheless!
Officer Britt said that the thief will be asked to surrender all stolen property and release the names of all the burglars involved. He’ll be charged for burglary and trafficking of stolen goods, among others.
“Bikes are becoming the big thing,” warned Britt, adding that SPD recovers somewhere between 400 to 500 bikes a year.
So when you are the victim of a stolen bicycle, be sure to file a stolen property report with the SPD as well as Bikewise - you may just get it back a year later. Thanks, SPD!