Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Case of The Stolen Bike.

I have been down for the count due to this lovely swine flu I had no clue was running rampant. (see pig posts below)  Today I feel much better. Answered emails, did some Facebook stuff, also worked a few cases via computer and made/took phone calls.
So on the phone, I  just promised a  dear friend who is a nurse,  I would curl up on my sofa  all day, drink the fluids, take vitamins, do nothing. And specifically not blog.
Yet with a blog,  according to my youngest daughter, the social marketing genius, a blog has to stay current or it gets deleted, ignored, forgotten.
So I am keeping all my promises to my good friend the nurse, except this one.
I am blogging. Though only a little bit.
Instead, I have another guest blogger, Caroline Deer. .. a student who was in my P.I. class last night.
The blog started  as an email sent me this morning.
I was telling stories in class about "pretext"... a tool we investigators use to elicit information. There are many legal restrictions to pre-texting, so one must always follow the law. When you are a P.I. and use pretext, you become someone else -- like an actor.
Caroline's story was intriguing, innovative and may be helpful to someone else who has had their property stolen.
This same thing, a bicycle theft, happened recently to a close family friend. His bicycle was important to him and has still not been found. Maybe this information can help someone  in some way.
So here, with Caroline's Deer's permission, is her the email  form it was originally sent to me. Caroline Deeer, btw, is on Facebook. If you friend her, tell her I said Hi.
"Bike Thief  E-Mail" by Caroline Deer.

Hi Susan-

Last night in class I remember you talking about playing a role or being in character during some of your investigations and I want to share this story with you that I know you will appreciate.

At the beginning of the year on January 8th, my bicycle was stolen from my condo garage. The garage is an open air space with an automatic rolling gate. Two other points of entry into the garage are two doors, one located next to the rolling gate and one on the side of the building down a stairwell. I had my bike propped up against the wall toward the rear of the garage and off to the side of the garage where it could not be seen from the street. I looped a plastic covered chain/lock through the frame and wheel on the bike.

I had been gone most of the day (a Saturday) and returned late in the evening around 11:00. I was preparing to go skiing the next day, so I was loading my gear in my truck. I noticed then that the bike was missing. My first reaction was being pissed and then my other thoughts were how did the thief make entry and is this person still around the building?

I immediately called 911 to report the missing bike. I also walked through the building to make sure it was secure just in case the thief could be somewhere else in the building. While I was waiting on the responding officer I noticed the rolling garage door was off track at the ground. This was the entry point. The officer showed up to take a statement and even collected a can left behind as evidence. I asked the officer the motive of bike theft and she said they either end up at the pawn shop or on Craigslist.

This was not my first time being victim of crimes since I have been in Seattle (I have also been victim to three bank robberies), so I was ready to take matters into my own hands and search for the bike. The following Monday a friend and I travelled up and down Aurora Ave looking for the bike at pawn shops, but no success. I then began looking at Craigslist every few days to see if I could find it. After a week and a half, I found it! I decided to give Craigslist a quick check one afternoon and when I saw the ad with a picture of my bike! I couldn’t believe it. I went into character and called the number on the ad and played it cool. A man named Scott had the bike listed. I found out his location which he told me was Tacoma and got an address to his home. I also asked him questions about the type of bike and year of the bike, which he could not answer. I asked where he got it from and he said an auction along with a few others. This told me that he didn’t know squat about the bike, so it was likely stolen. I set up a time to go see it after work and he agreed.

I immediately called police for advice and they were not much help. I got the run around from both Seattle and Tacoma, so I said never mind, I will handle it myself. I recruited the help of a male friend to see if I could borrow his car to go there because I didn’t know if this guy was the actual thief and he would put two and two together if he saw my truck pull up. The truck was parked close the bike. My friend said "lets go together." On the way to Tacoma I went over every possible thing that could go wrong in my head mapping out if this happens then we’ll do this type scenarios. I also wrote the serial number to my bike on the inside of my arm and the address to his house as well. I dropped a mini flashlight in my pocket along with my cell phone.

We pulled up and the man came out of the garage with the bike in tow. I said, “Wow that is a nice bike! I have looked at so many and this one by far is the nicest for the price. Why are you selling it?” He said he picks up bikes at auctions for low prices then sells them. Now brace yourself….he then says,” They even have the serial number still on them!” I was floored! I said “where on earth would they put a serial number on a bike?”He then says, “Let me show you.” He flips the bike over and there it was….my serial  number! I said, “Can I take the bike for a spin and make sure all the gears work?” He said “sure.” So my friend stayed behind and chatted him up while I went around the block. I confirmed once again that it was my serial number and then I called the police. Two officers arrived and went to confront him. Of course he gave them some song and dance about where it can from and then they cuffed him. In the end the man was arrested for possession of stolen property and the police were able to obtain a search warrant for his garage. He had the entire thing full of stolen goods. He was booked into Pierce County and released the next day. The following day I got a call from Seattle Police asking me for more information about my bike, so they could investigate further. I told them the information and then let them know that I recovered the bike the night before. I told them the Tacoma Police Department case number and they used the information from that case to catch the actual thief that took the bike in the first place.


  1. Rock on, Caroline!!! That is so cool.

  2. Thank you! It's amazing what can be done when you get tired of being a victim. I would encourage more people to stand up for themselves and take back what is theirs. Often times people rely so much on police resources to "find stolen property" or "solve the case," but what people don't realize is how much they can help themselves by doing a little leg work to solve the case. Thanks for the comment!

  3. I love this story! I'm so sorry you had your bike stolen of course, but you really did good work. If I stole something I'd be too paranoid to put it on ebay/craigslist/etc for this very reason. I suppose sometimes crooks aren't the smartest folks out there.

    My mom's bike was stolen out of our garage once and the police brought it back the next day. She didn't even know it was gone. Apparently the guy who stole it was using it to ride around the neighborhood and rob other people. Again, crooks aren't too smart.