October 11, 2013

Craigslist: The Black Hole of Bicycles

In "Who Pinched My Ride?"—yes, I'm still on that—Patrick Symmes calls Craigslist "the black hole of bicycles." Surely many a stolen bike has found its way into the hands of a less-than-scrupulous—demand a serial number, people, and run it through the registries!—buyer via the increasingly sketchy online marketplace...which is why stories of Craigslist-enabled bicycle recoveries make news.

In August, for instance, I read about Vancouver bartender Kayla Smith stealing her $1000+ bike back from a man trying to sell it on Craigslist for $300. Hear CBC audio below of Smith describing the reclamation sting, or read the Reddit post in which she tells what happened.

My reaction? (I posted it on Facebook when I linked to Grist's take on the tale of redemption.) "May we all be blessed with bike thieves this amateur." The guy tried to sell the bike two blocks from where he stole it, for goodness sake!  

Savvier thieves, of course, list stolen bikes on a neighboring city's Craigslist: a fixie purloined in Portland might be hawked in Seattle, say. When my 29er vanished from behind the building where I work in Dupont Circle, colleagues told me to keep as close an eye on the Baltimore and Philadelphia Craigslists as on the DC classifieds.

So what if your bike has been stolen, and you see what you're pretty sure is your bike for sale on Craigslist? As the NBC spot makes abundantly clear, law enforcement discourages victims of bike theft from pulling a Kayla Smith and taking matters into their own hands. (To be fair, Smith did call the cops before meeting the thief in the McDonald's parking lot; she just didn't get enough assurance that they'd take action in time.) The police would prefer that, assuming you're in a position to prove that the bike is yours—go turn your bike over and record that serial number—you call and tell them what's up. Sometimes it works out.

Don't believe me? Read this Good interview with Los Angeles freelance film and television designer Christian Brown. A quote:
The cops didn't actually let me get within sight of the bike seller. They sounded really worried that I'd do something "unwise," which wasn’t that unreasonable of them given the revenge dreams I was having.
The coppers know that when you "absolutely love love love" (to quote Kayla Smith) your bike, you're quite likely to go vigilante in the event it goes missing.

No comments:

Post a Comment