(CBS) — Bike theft victims are banding together online to catch crooks and expose tricks of the criminal trade. Some say it is the only way they are getting justice. No official word on how many bikes are stolen every year, but log onto social media and you will find plenty.
CBS 2’s Dave Savini has been investigating and talking to one frustrated bike rider after another who are taking to the internet to find help.
Kayci Sterzer says thieves broke into her Logan Square building in March, and stole her $1,500 dollar bicycle.
“I felt really violated,” said Sterzer who later saw it being sold on Facebook. “I had probably five to ten people contact me and say, ‘Hey, I saw your bike.'”
Social media vigilantes have created sites like the Find Stolen Bikes Facebook page, to expose alleged thieves and help victims find their bikes. There you will find plenty of people complaining about Chicago Police not doing enough.
Kayci Sterzer says she told police who was selling her bike online: “And that was a month and half ago, and I haven’t heard anything.”
In another case, Devin Asperger’s $1,000 bike was stolen in front of a Lincoln Park building with a security camera. He says he hasn’t heard from police.
Same goes for Tommy Smolack. He says his expensive bike was taken outside a fast food place at North and Wells. He wants to see more policing of stolen bikes.
“Yes, yes, so much goes into these bikes,” said Smolack.
There also are complaints police do not search flea markets enough for possible stolen bikes.
Another complaint — the city is not providing enough secure bike racks forcing unsuspecting cyclists to rely on street sign poles that are prime targets for thieves. These poles, called “sucker poles”, have no screws in the bottom to hold the pole in place. Thieves just lift them up and take the attached bike. CBS 2 found streets lined with these compromised poles.
Mark Kasper used one of these poles to lock up his bike on Rush Street. He thought it was secure until CBS 2 showed him how easy it was to take it.
“This is crazy,” said Kasper. “I owe a debt to Channel 2. Definitely owe a debt to Channel 2.”
The CBS 2 Investigators also worked to help Sterzer find her bike, which she never thought she would see again. We traced the bike’s seller, Denis Pinto, to his home.
Pinto said he did not know who had owned the bike and said he bought it at a pawn shop. Learning it was stolen, he gave the bike to CBS 2 and then with Pinto, we went to the pawn shop — EZ Pawn on Fullerton.
A pawn shop employee would not look up the bike’s serial number or answer questions about it. CBS 2 called police. They came and issued several citations for the shop’s record keeping on bikes.
After that, we brought Sterzer her bike. She had been waiting months and CBS 2 recovered it in about twenty minutes.
“Amazing,” she said.
Denis Pinto says the pawn shop did not return his money.
Chicago Police say they work hard to recover stolen property and bring thieves to justice.
If your bike is stolen – look for it online, at flea markets, swap meets or pawn shops. Keep your bike’s serial number and receipt — to prove it is yours.
For more articles on bike theft in Chicago, click here.
To see a registry for stolen bikes in Chicago, visit Chicago.stolenbike.org.
Click here to visit the Find Stolen Bikes Chicago Facebook page.