Back in October 2012, our beloved Centurions were stolen from us near the Long Beach Shoreline. It was an unfortunate and bitter moment because we loved our vintage cyclery. A lot of these 1980's steel bikes are being turned into fixies (blah) by urban hipsters here in L.A. So I had very little faith in ever recovering it. What I did want, though, is for the thieves to be caught. Even though we both have since replaced the Centurions with more expensive and faster 1980's and 90's Cannodale aluminum bikes, we continued our quest to search for the Centurions.
For the past month and a half, we've been perusing Craigslist ads nearly everyday looking for bike deals for our friends with three of them having purchased their bikes via this famous mecca site of deal finding and in hopes that one or both of the bikes would pop up. On Saturday morning, just right after having finished our Stone Brewery test ride coming up in December the night before, I happened to do a quick search on Craigslist on my phone and to my surprise, I saw my bike listed for sale in Carson, CA! Right away, we did a search for Frank's bike but unfortunately turned up with nothing. I contacted the seller right away pretending to be an interested buyer and he immediately offered his address to pick up the bike.
Now you'd think that it would be easy to retrieve the stolen bike, right? Wrong. It took us 4 days to finally get it back. With the information I received from the seller, not knowing whether he was the original thieve, a criminal with a murder history, perhaps a teenage hoodlum, we contacted the Long Beach Police Department where we originally filed the report of our stolen bikes. Both Frank and I each contacted them separately and we were told the following: 1) “we can't do anything about it, contact Carson police” and 2) “call back Monday when there's a detective available”. So with that, we contacted the Carson Sheriff's Department (they don't have a police force), and we were told the following: 1) “you have to contact Long Beach PD where you filed the original report” and 2) “go to Long Beach PD station with the information and they should help you”. OK, so it's already starting to get frustrating. But I wanted to catch this guy, get my bike back and seek justice. So we printed all the information we could and brought it to Long Beach PD station. They looked at our paperwork and basically told us “Take your paperwork along with a copy of your police report to Carson and have them meet you at the seller's location”. So......we head over to Carson near the seller's location at a public parking lot and after several attempts were finally successful in getting them to send officers to meet with us.....it only took.....almost TWO hours for them to show up! Ok, so there was supposedly an emergency that they had to attend to first...but whatever. When the Sheriff's officer showed up, she barely wanted to help us since we didn't have the serial number of the bike. After pleading with her and showing her all the photos we have with detailed description of the bike, she finally decided to contact her Sargent to see what she could do. In the meantime, two more Sheriff's officers showed up and gave the original officer directions on what she should do. After waiting another hour (in the rain, might I add), she finally gave us the news....there's nothing they can do. She proceeded to give us information to the Long Beach PD (yes, again!) and told us we would have to get in contact with a detective on Monday. I had to contact the seller and delayed the “meeting” and pretended that I was still in interested in buying the bike, asking him to hold it for me until Monday. Luckily, he agreed.
Monday comes two days later and we were excited to finally get this over with. We called the Long Beach PD and asked to speak to a detective and explained the whole situation. The operator says “Why were you told to wait til Monday to speak to a detective? There's always one available”. Seriously?!?!?! Anyway, the operator transferred us to a detective....and unfortunately they were all busy so we left our information. We waited. An hour goes by and no return call. I called them back again and got transferred to a detective's voicemail, I leave another message. This is turning out great, isn't it. Well, I was fed up, I didn't want my bike to get sold because then I would have no evidence, no lead, NOTHING to go by. So I decided I was just going to show up at the seller's house and hope they don't shoot me.
When we got to Carson, we decided to give it one last shot and showed up at the Sheriff's station and pleaded for an officer to go to the seller's house with us to keep peace. Two officers agreed! Finally, we get to the seller's house and turns out, he's just this old Filipino guy. We look at the bike and acted as if we were about to buy it when the Sheriff's pull up and starts questioning the seller. The seller claims he purchased the bike from a swap meet shop owner and that he was willing to take us to him. After awhile, the Sheriff's told us without serial numbers, they can't do anything about it. Not a lot of help, but at least we got a case number and the seller's information, which would come in handy in the event we decided to bring him to court. Monday was a total loss.
Tuesday morning, the seller texted me and says he returned the bike to the swap meet shop owner and that I could go and get it back from him instead. Again, not knowing what kind of person this shop owner is, we took the risk and went to see him, without any officers because we knew there would be no way to get them to accompany us. When we arrived, we were surprised how nice the shop owner was and how willing he was to give us back our bike because he knew the original guy he bought it from and he would be able to get his money back.
So after going through this entire ordeal, we learned....you can't rely on law enforcement, especially regarding stolen bikes in this case, because they just don't care. And that's why we as citizens, have to take matters into our own hands. Operation “Recover Stolen Bikes” was a success, now we just have one more to recover, hence the blog title "Part 1". I hope to be able to write "Part 2" of this recovery miracle.
So if you ever have your bike stolen, keep faith because you never know when a miracle will happen.
p.s. We never received a call back from the Long Beach PD detectives.
Frank & Sara.