If your bike gets stolen in London your chances of getting it back are pretty grim. You may have a quick look on Gumtree and eBay, report it to the police and then forget about it. However, this story of how Marc recovered his stolen brand new Charge bike should give others hope of recovering their bike, as well as some great tips to follow if you ever find yourself in the same situation.
It all started on Sunday near the Columbia Road flower market. In broad daylight, on a busy street, a brand new Charge Plug bike worth nearly £500 was stolen. It was secured at the time with an Abus D-lock worth £40 and an Abus coil cable.
On the dreadful moment of discovering the stolen bike, Marc was understandably devastated. Especially as the bike was only three weeks old and had been making the journey to work a real pleasure.
Marc refused to give up without a fight. His first port of call was to report it to the police. However, he was met with little support from the operator. He was also told it would take someone up to 72 hours to complete the report. [Editors side note here: You may find the Cycle Task Force far more supportive: firstname.lastname@example.org]
During those 72 hours he knew the chances of finding the bike would be greatly reduced and therefore he took to the Brick Lane market to see if he could spot his bike being sold. Unfortunately, these efforts proved unfruitful.
He then started scouring both Gumtree and eBay but by the end of the day there was still no luck.
The next day Marc kept up the search and at 11pm just as he was about to switch off the laptop for the night an advert appeared for a Charge bike.
[Editors note: A great site to bookmark is Bikeshd which lists thousands of second hand bikes being sold in London – great for spotting your bike]
The images in the Gumtree listings were blurry, the description was vague and for some strange reason the bell had been moved from the left side of the handlebars to the right. However, Marc knew he had spotted his bike.
He called the police that night who gave him the number for the Criminal Investigation Department to call the next morning. Once again however the help from the police was uninspiring at best. The police advised that it would take at least a few days to get through the system and suggested going to the nearest police station to do the report in person.
Marc played along and went to report the crime. Later that day he received a call from the police and was told that there was nothing they could do. This was despite Marc providing the phone number of the seller, the pictures to prove it along with a frame number and receipt of purchase.
He was given the unofficial suggestion to meet the seller himself and call 999 if it was his bike. So that is exactly what he did.
Marc went along with a group of his friends to meet at Bounds Green Tube. A public space. They had previously agreed that if things turned nasty then they would walk away.
The moment the seller arrived it was this was the stolen bike. He asked if he could move the bike closer to the tube entrance to see it under the light. Once they had moved inside he explained that this was his bike and that the seller should give it up and walk away.
The seller said he had bought the bike for £150 near Brick Lane and would not be walking away.
This resulted in a mini tug-of-war with both parties holding on to the bike. 999 was called and it took the police an hour to arrive. The seller’s wife turned up only adding to the tension.
Eventually, after a nervous wait when the police arrived. Marc showed a picture of the bike receipt with the frame number written on there. He also had a crime report reference.
The police gave the seller two choices – go home and file a civil report or be arrested for handling stolen goods. He swiftly left and Marc then knew he had finally reclaimed his bike.
The police were just as surprised at the whole affair and one of them said “In all my years as a policeman I’ve never seen anyone get their stolen bike back.”
The next day there was a call from the friendly CID officer Marc had spoken to who had seen the updated crime report. He congratulated the efforts on retrieving the bike and apologised for not being able to do anything.
The story is an illustration of the lack of support the police show for bicycle theft. Despite Marc jumping through a number of hoops they were largely powerless to help. This isn’t the fault of the individual officers but clearly something about the system needs to be revised.
Would I recommend others take the same course of action? Things could have turned out differently so this is a personal decision each person will have to take for themselves.
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.