WASHINGTON — On Sunday, a customer at City Bikes in Adams Morgan went to the shop to get an estimate for a repair to his Santa Cruz bike. The staff explained they couldn’t complete the fix that day, so he rode home. But he didn’t get all the way home by bike.
City Bikes Store Manager John Fitzmaurice explains the customer came into the shop on Tuesday to tell them his bike had been stolen from him — at gunpoint. “He told us about this Tuesday morning. A few hours later, the same bike comes into the shop — with a different customer.” That’s right. Same bike, different customer.
Suspicious, Fitzmaurice checked with City Bikes General Manager Saul Leiken and they decided to call police immediately. In the meantime, the person who was in possession of the bike wanted to get an estimate on the same repair the bike’s owner had asked about on Sunday. Apparently deciding against the expense, he left the shop. But because the bike wasn’t working properly the guy walked it as he left the shop and milled around the neighborhood.
Leiken says because he wasn’t wearing a City Bikes T shirt, as staffers do, he decided he’d follow the guy with the bike until police arrived. “When he left the shop, I decided to follow him from about a block or two behind. Sure enough, about ten minutes later we had four police officers at the shop.”
Leiken and Fitzmaurice had been keeping in touch by phone, and Leiken placed the guy with the bike outside the nearby Starbucks. “Next thing I know there are two bike officers speaking with him … and that was that!” Leiken says. The man was arrested.
Fitzmaurice says the fact that the customer had reported the theft to police and let City Bikes staffers know his bike had been stolen helped get the bike back.
Fitzmaurice and Leiken also say rapid response from the Metropolitan Police Department was critical. Police dusted the bike for fingerprints, and Fitzmaurice says police identified the man who’d brought the bike in for repairs as the suspected bike thief.
The customer’s relieved, how about the bike? Fitzmaurice says, “The bike’s in rough shape, it needs some more repairs after it was taken.” But he says it’ll be repaired and back in the customer’s hands soon.
Speaking of bike theft recovery efforts, Fitzmaurice says, “It’s the second time I’ve been involved in one for our customer — so it’s always rewarding to get one back after we hear so many stories of people losing their bikes that they love and put a lot of time and effort into.”
Some things you should do:
- Get a good lock. And use it every single time you leave your bike somewhere.
- Lock your frame and your wheels.
- Lock your bike to a secure rack or post. Street signs are often called “sucker poles” for a reason. (Theives have been known to unscrew the signs, and lift your bike, lock and all right off the post.)
- Find the serial number on your bike. If you can’t find it, check with your bike shop, they can help you locate it.
- Record the number, and better yet, register your bike with the National Bike Registry.
- Report the bike theft to police and to your insurance company. It can be a hassle, but that can help the police response if in a case like this one, the bike is spotted.
- Tell your bike shop, and others in the area, about the theft of your bike. No one is going to be more sympathetic about having their bike stolen than the people who give your bike tender loving care throughout the year.
WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.