Hunch leads to purchase of stolen bike and a happy ending

Hunch leads to purchase of stolen bike and a happy ending

Jennifer got her bike back.
(Photo: Jennifer Plaza)

Add this to the many ways stolen bikes get recovered…

On Sunday night, Timo Forsberg and his friend Vivian Yuan were chatting on NE 28th Street when a “shady dude” approached and offered to sell them a nice road bike. It was a Trek 2200, which retails for about $1,000. “He asked for $250,” recalled Timo’s fiance Esther Harlow in an email to us about the incident. “And it seemed way too nice for some guy trying to sell it on the street late at night.”

With a strong hunch that the bike might be stolen, Timo tracked down the seller a few minutes later, expressed interest in the bike, and eventually talked him down to $55. With the bike in hand, Timo and Esther left the bike at a friend’s house nearby and then posted a “Found bike” notice on Craigslist at 11:40 pm Sunday night:

“WE were on NE 28th and a guy was walking around trying to sell a bike for $250 that obviously was stolen. We talked him down to $55 (he bargained it up from 50. Weird I know.) Describe the model, serial # and/or description so we can reunite you. :)”

They hadn’t heard anything back by the next morning. Meanwhile, Adam George, a friend who had heard about the bike, went to the BikePortland Stolen Bike Listings to see if a bike matching that description had been listed. Sure enough, yesterday at 10:41 am, a woman named Jennifer Plaza listed a Trek 2200. She even offered a $100 reward for its return. The description matched and Adam forwarded the listing to Esther and Vivian and they used the contact information posted in the listing to contact Jennifer.

By last night, Jennifer had her bike back and this bike theft story got its happy ending.

This story is another good example of how a strong community and smart actions following a theft can increase the chances of getting a bike back. Jennifer did the right thing in listing the bike as stolen right away. Timo followed his hunch that the bike was stolen (based on the man’s “general state of hygiene, and the fact that he had on old worn sneakers but the bike had fancy clipless pedals and was too small for him”) and engaged the seller. Esther helped spread the word via Craigslist and social media. Timo’s friend Vivian (who lives a few blocks away) agreed to hold the bike and arrange the meeting with its owner. And Adam George spotted the bike on the BikePortland listings and told Esther about it.

In my experience, people looking after one another is a common way bikes get recovered. No police or high-tech solutions necessary. Nice work everyone!

Check out the archives for more stolen bike recovery stories.

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