B.C. vigilantes get involved in reclaiming stolen bikes - InfoNews

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B.C. vigilantes get involved in reclaiming stolen bikes

FILE PHOTO - Police will check recovered bikes for a serial number, but may have no luck if it's been sanded off.
June 25, 2019 - 3:30 PM

KAMLOOPS - The constant stream of bike thefts have left many Kamloops residents feeling helpless, and some wanting to take justice into their own hands.  

Marlene Armstrong is a member of a stolen bikes page on Facebook, and recently took back a stolen bike.
“It’s not the first time. This is the second time I’ve went and got one,” says Armstrong.

She says a few years ago, she reclaimed her first stolen bike.

“A bike was stolen from a disabled boy that I took care of. They were trying to sell it on Facebook and I met up with them to buy it and I just took it,” she says. “They tried to sell it two days after they stole it.”

This time, she saw a bike posted on the Facebook group that she thought was quite recognizable. Another user had announced they had seen the bike, so Armstrong took off in her car to go looking.

She noticed the bike on the north shore near Fortune Drive and Vernon Avenue, and went into a nearby business to gather herself before confronting the three individuals with the bike.

“The lady in the store just looked at me, and I said ‘I just need a minute. That bike is stolen and I just need a minute.’ I looked at it, made sure it was the bike, walked outside, told the lady to get off the bike, and I put it on top of my Jeep and called the cops,” Armstrong says.

She gave the bike to one of the admins of the Facebook group, who turned it in to the RCMP. According to the admin, the bike's owner has been identified, but it is unsure if the bike has been returned.

Although Armstrong has had luck twice with reclaiming bikes, she doesn’t recommend it to everyone.

“I kind of like that adrenaline rush. I don’t recommend other people doing it, of course. Honestly though, they know they stole the bike. What are they going to do, call the cops?”  Armstrong adds, “Most of them aren’t violent, they aren’t mean, horrible people. They have a problem, and they know they’re busted.”

Lin Moroz is an admin of one of the local stolen bikes pages, and says she has seen people take justice into their own hands before.

“We’re working with individuals who are compromised in a lot of ways,” Moroz says. “Walking up to somebody and taking the bike is not the best solution.”

After they've been stolen, many bikes have their serial numbers grinded off, often rendering them unidentifiable if returned to police. Moroz urges people to register their bike on 529 Garage, an app which will let users register the serial number of their bike as well as any scratches, dents, stickers, modifications, or other identifiers. 

“Police can’t return a bike because you say it’s yours,” says Moroz. “They can’t return a bike because it’s blue and yours was blue. They can return a bike by its serial numbers or identifiers on the bike that you pre-registered.”

Moroz notes that she has contacted police before when locating a stolen bike, and had to wait over 40 minutes for an officer to show up. She understand that the urgency of a stolen bike isn’t as high as some of the other calls going into an RCMP detachment.

“I found a bike and we sat at a crossroad for quite a while. We checked the serial number, the owner was there with me, and it took the police a while to go through the calls before they could help,” Moroz says. “That’s a natural fact.”

Moroz notes that the RCMP has worked with members of the Facebook group before to help locate stolen bikes.

Moroz and Armstrong acknowledge the rumours of alleged bike chop shop around town, wherein thieves will take apart bikes and rebuild them into something unrecognizable. Both agree that these places are too dangerous to approach.

Jodie Shelkie of the RCMP says people who have spotted a stolen bike should contact police, instead of trying to reclaim it themselves.She urges people to avoid conflict with theives in any situation.
“When someone steals a bike they may take it home and alter it themselves or they may take it to a residence known for accepting stolen bikes,” says Shelkie. “Either of these may be referred to a 'chop shop' by the public.  When the RCMP attends residences for complaints and note that there are a lot of bicycle parts, the officer will run all serial numbers that are found.”

Although Shelkie notes that there has been no recent incidents of violence during a stolen bike confrontation, she recommends the public call police to let them handle the situation.

If a bike is recovered but cannot be identified, it is held by the RCMP. If no owner is identified after 90 days it will go to an auction.

If you haven’t done so already, you can register your bike here.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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