Tuesday, March 18, 2014

So, the bike theft

As promised, here is the full story about our bikes being stolen.

For the last 3 years, we have kept our bikes locked up at the bottom of the stairwell here.

It's a very convenient spot for 2 bikes since our apartment isn't really that big. Even though the building itself isn't locked, the bikes are out of sight from the door and there are only 2 apartments downstairs (including ours) so we don't get a lot of traffic coming by them. We also always have them locked to the stair railing.

Last Saturday, I left at around 1 to run some errands. On my way out, the bikes were there. On my way back, I didn't notice if they were there or not. I did notice that the door to our hallway was open, but with my attention focused on that and carrying stuff, I didn't look back in the direction of the bikes. Charleen mentioned that she had heard a bunch of banging around earlier, but it's an apartment building, that's nothing out of the ordinary. On our way out to dinner, however, we were shocked to walk out and see our bikes missing. That night an officer came by to record what was stolen. He left his card and we were going to call him back once we confirmed the serial numbers with the bike shop the next day. We also called our landlord right away on the off chance that someone had complained about them and maintenance took them.

The next day, we confirmed which numbers on our receipt were the serial numbers at the bike shop and called the officer to add those numbers to the police report so that they could flag them if the bikes showed up at a pawn shop. Our landlord also called me back to let me know that she hadn't told anyone to take the bikes, but our next door neighbor had skipped out on her and it was possible that one of the maintenance guys thought the bikes belonged to them and might have moved them. She'd have to check the next day when they were in.

Well, on Monday, I called her back and she confirmed that none of her guys had moved them. They had definitely been stolen. Thankfully, we do have renter's insurance, but I didn't want to call them right away. Even though the weather was getting nicer, I didn't want to start with the insurance since I still wanted to give it a couple of days on the off chance that the police got a hit on the serial numbers. I figured I'd rather not go through the process of paying our deductible $500 and getting new bikes only to recover the old ones. Well, on Thursday we still hadn't heard anything so I called up to start the insurance process. A rep got back to me on Friday and I had some paperwork to fill out over the weekend. Yay...

On Sunday, one of the maintenance guys knocked on the door to tell me that he knows where the bikes are. He happened to see them the day before in the pawn shop downtown where he pays his bills. He was one of the guys that was in the building the previous week to clean up some of the mess with the sewer backing up so he was pretty familiar with what they looked like. He also mentioned that one of them had a light on it and the other one didn't. I was pretty excited to have possibly found the bikes, but there was a problem. The pawn shop wasn't open on Sunday. The maintenance guy, Wayne, wanted to meet up with me and the land lord the next morning to tell her what he had found out. The pawn shop wasn't open until 10 AM the next day so I called in to work to make sure I could take the morning off to get this resolved. Thankfully I have a pretty understanding boss who knows I'll make up the time later in the week.

So here I am for the rest of the day Sunday looking up what goes into the process of getting stolen property back from a pawn shop. The good news was that pawn shops due to their nature, typically take down a driver's license and sometimes even finger prints of the people who sell things to them. Also, as long as the serial numbers hadn't been scratched off, I knew I could prove that the bikes were ours. One would think that that would be that. Buying or selling stolen property is illegal, and the property should still belong to the original owner. The pawn shop didn't do anything wrong since they didn't know the bikes were stolen when they bought them, but it should be like counterfeit money. Whoever ends up with it last after discovering it's fake is out the money. Well...it turns out that different states have different rules. Many victims of theft have to pay the pawn shops what they paid to get their stuff back. In other cases, the police will take the property as evidence until everything is processed through. The more I read, the more I realized that we might not be getting our bikes back the next day. Yeah, I didn't sleep well that night.

So Monday morning at 8 I met up with the landlord. She wanted to know right away who took the bikes because if they had anything to do with the apt complex, they were going to be either evicted or fired. So, she was going to meet me over at the shop at 10 when they opened. I also contacted the police to see what they wanted me to do, as expected, they told me to verify that the bikes were indeed there and if they were, call them back and they'd have an officer over to get the information from the shop on who sold them. So after I had been home for about an hour twiddling my thumbs until it was time to head over to the shop, there was a knock at the door. It was my landlord telling me that she knew who had taken the bikes. It was one of her maintenance guys. He had thought that the bikes belonged to the neighbors that skipped out and had taken them without her permission to pawn them. As a result, he was now fired and would be going to the pawn shop to get the bikes back. I was a little uneasy about this and was wondering if I should meet him down there to take the bikes back myself, but it ended up not mattering. The pawn shop wouldn't give them back to him anyway after finding out they were stolen. They needed my permission to sell them back to him.

So, I threw the bike rack in the car and headed over to the pawn shop. On the way over to the shop I was thinking about what I would say to the guy who had stolen our bikes. The landlord had told me that he was very upset when he confessed to her that he had taken the bikes. Apparently he couldn't afford to lose this job. Well, there wasn't anything I could do about that now. That was the landlord's decision, not that I didn't agree with her. I decided that in this case, less was probably more. Besides, my main priority was getting the bikes back in one piece.

I walk in and there they are, both bikes, undamaged with sale stickers on them. And there was Jeff, the guy who had stolen them. Quite honestly, he looked pretty pathetic. I was glad I had decided not to say much. I pretty much just didn't want to talk to him. I just wanted to get in, get my bikes back, take them home, and not have to think about him again. He on the other hand apparently needed my acknowledgement that what he did was "just an honest mistake". He kept repeating that phrase. I'm not sure if he was trying to convince me or himself. Anyway, one of the guys in the pawn shop said that he needed to take the money directly from me. This is the one plus that I will give to Jeff, he had the money ready to go and handed it to me without any fuss. So, I gave the money to the pawn shop and they started the process of getting their paperwork straightened out. Jeff once again was still trying to get me to acknowledge his "honest mistake" and now that the bikes were mine again I responded that if it was an honest mistake, why didn't he fess up as soon as the landlord asked him and the rest of the maintenance guys about taking the bikes a week ago. He then started muttering something about trying to figure out how and I turned back to the pawn shop clerk. After another minute, Jeff asked if I wanted his help out with the bikes or transporting them back to the apartment. I simply told him, "I think you've done enough." He left, one of the clerks helped me take the bikes out to the car, and I loaded them up and took them home.

Now instead of feeling a bit depressed when I walk past where the empty spot where the bikes used to be, I smile every time I walk into our kitchen.

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