Tuesday, April 30, 2013

If You Park Your Bike, You'll Want To Read This

There's a sneaky little ring of bike thieves in the area.  Here's one reader's experience Monday afternoon, describing how they operate and how they were caught.

"Just got back from the lakefront. Biked to Wilson and the path, ran 4 miles and was coming back and found an unmarked police car, a patrol wagon, and six guys against the car. My bike's front wheel was off, but I was able to put it back on. Not quick release btw.

Turns out these guys had stolen a seat and tire from somebody's bike in front of Ch'ava coffee (Leland/Wilson) right while the owner was in there. She saw them, gave chase, called the cops, and the cops found the guys at the lakefront. They brought the owner by and kept her in the cop car to ID them.

Her wheel was on one of their beater bikes and they were carrying her seat.  So what they do is smart ... they bike around and find high quality bikes and then swap out the wheels to use on their beater  bikes until they sell the wheel. They were on mountain bikes, so it looked strange with a fat mountain tire bike on the back and a road tire on the front (nice Shimano!).  My guess they would have swapped the seats too if they had the time. Mine is a hybrid with a comfort seat, which they may not have been interested in.

The cops searched them and found an Allen wrench and several small knives. The cops said they couldn't charge them for my wheel theft because they didn't see them steal my tire (the boys said my tire was just sitting there!). My bike frame on a kryptonite and the locked tire were untouched. I lock the back tire because I have enclosed gears that would be stolen if the rear tire was taken. 

The cops kept saying that because they were juvies they will just get a slap on the wrist. 

I have been running by the lake for 10 years ... never a problem with my bike, though I never leave it  in the middle of a weekday.  Now I see I'll need to lock my second tire everywhere. At my health club in Andersonville - nobody locks both tires - but I'm going to start doing it.

I've always wondered who steals things like tires and seats. These guys were obviously organized ... with an Allen wrench and on bikes. Shocked there were six of them.  They were truly diverse ... Hispanic, black, and South Asian from their looks.  Looked about 17.  None very physical ... would definitely have challenged them if I arrived while they were in the act.

The punk who had the Allen wrench and a knife was named Leonardo.  And no, I don't care if he is only 17; he is still a thief.  I told them all they were thieves and that felt good. They seemed really humiliated up against the squad car ... at least there for 25 minutes while I was there. Cops did a very nice job ... though didn't seem interested in seeing us going to court. I thanked them profusely.

So now even when I run or go out to the store I need to carry a second lock. What a pain!"

According to the Chicago Stolen Bike Registry, Uptown has been a pretty safe place for bikes.  Keep an eye out for these kids.  They've already had a bad experience, getting arrested in Uptown.  Let's try to make this part of town extremely inhospitable for them.


  1. I was at Ch'ava with a friend having coffee when this happened. Myself and the two girls went running after them, but of course because they were on her bike they out beat us. Call the police for her. It amazed me that they did this right in front of her. No matter how long you are away fokes. Lock your bikes up. No one can be trusted!

  2. I had my bike stolen from the gold coast at 5 am, and I witnessed the event. I even have grainy cell pictures of the guy using a battery powered angle grinder to cut my lock off, which you can see below. He too was well organized.

    My Kryptonite U-Lock was around my frame, front wheel and the bike rack. He had taken off the front wheel so that he had easy access to the curved part of the U-Lock, which is easier to grind through because in order for it to be bent in the U shape, it has to be softened first (melted/heated at super high temps). There was nearby street work signs posted on the street, so it was seemingly plausible that road work was starting, though 5am was a little early to do that. I heard the noise from the lobby of the theatre I was working at, poke my head out the door and see this guy cutting my lock off. He had a black bag next to the bike, which could have been filled with who knows what other weapons or tools, so I didn't try to stop him. We did yell at him and we called the police, but they took almost 20 minutes to show up.

    His partner was waiting in Honda CRV down the street. When we started yelling at this guy, he drove up and made sure everything was OK with his buddy, then drove around the block to pick up the guy on the other side of the alley by which he biked off with my bike :(

    I fortunately found it listed on craigslist about 6 or 7 weeks later, didn't manage to buy it as I was trying to get the police involved, but again the took over 24 hours to get back to me, but someone else did buy it and contacted me from my posting on http://chicago.stolenbike.org/node/193546 I highly recommend, if anyone has their bike stolen, create a listing on this website. I definitely got my ride back thanks to them and a kind person who willingly gave it back to me after paying $400 for it on craigslist (I gave him half of that even though he was willing to return with it for nothing).

    Here's pictures of my lock and the douche wad who stole my bike:

    These days I use a kryptonite U lock with a kryptonite aircraft cable to secure my rear tire. I also recommend removing any accessories that are easily removable (IE lights, bags, etc) if you lock your bike outside.

    Stay safe.

  3. you don't necessarily need to buy another lock. If you're comfortable taking your front wheel off, you can lock your front wheel alongside your rear wheel, through the rear frame triangle (to something you trust). This way, you've locked the three most expensive pieces at once, and left very little room for some methods of lock breaking to be performed. Ask your local bike shop.

  4. If you want to stop theft, ya gotta think like a thief. However, I could strip any bike down to the frame in less than five minutes, and you don't want to have to lock all that stuff up (and have a 50lb bike). So, what is one to do? As with anything, take reasonable precautions, and accept that if someone is determined to get what you got, they're gonna get it.

  5. My Cannondale was ripped off last year in North Center. Now, I have a beater Schwinn for city riding. Bike thieves are scum.