Guy sets up his own sting operation to get his stolen bike back

[Video Link] The alleged thief's defense: "I bought this bike from Craigslist. I knew it was stolen, yes. It's not illegal to by stolen stuff. I LOOKED IT UP, DUDE."

Guy finds stolen bike on Craigslist 160 miles away, sets up home-made sting, confronts the thief and gets his bicycle back, thief gets felony arrest.

Update: The bike was locked up with a mid-range Kryptonite U-Lock, the thief broke the lock. The lock was never recovered.

We called the cops just before Simon started talking with the thief. It took Seattle PD 45 minutes to get there. Simon decided to confront him when they neglected to show up. Once he did, however, they rolled up as you can see in the video.

Watch This Guy Take Down the Dude Who Stole His Bike


  1. Are Kryptonite U-locks the ones that are easily defeated with a ballpoint pen barrel?  Or was that some other brand?  And was that flaw ever fixed?

    EDIT: Never mind. Looked it up. They fixed that flaw seven or eight years ago, as soon as they heard of it, more or less.

    1. It was only the “New York” series of locks.  After that story came out people would tell me that they could pick my bike lock with a plastic pen barrel.  I was like, OK lets see you try bro.  The results were usually quite amusing.

      1. Yeah, but since nobody realized that, basically every bike store salesman used that vid to sell the new long key kryptonite models as a replacement to people who already had perfectly good locks.

      2. I don’t think it was just the “New York” series.  My wife had an Evolution 2000, and I had a Kryptolok.  We were able to open both of them very quickly with a bic pen.  It was amazingly easy. My impression was that most/all of those circular barrel locks were vulnerable. A quick google search turned up at least one long list of locks that were vulnerable to the bic tube of plastic:

        1. You’re right.  See this Wired article:

          I forget my exact model, but it looked similar to the one pictured and I had no trouble opening it with a Bic.  My friends and I tried several other models too and had no problems.  There is a bit of a knack to it however, so I can see that some people might have tried once and thought their lock wasn’t susceptible.  

  2. i don’t think you can record anyone just like that, can you? I think it wont be admissible as evidence if you don’t make him aware that he is being recorded. 

    afaik only persons of public interest are exempt from this rule? 

    1. Depends what state you are in. I haven’t looked it up in their state but I live in Oklahoma and there is no law against recording someone without them knowing and it is fully admissible in court. I have actually been to business training courses were they suggest (at least in Oklahoma) making everyone leave all cell phones in an external location during sensitive meetings because it is so very legal for them to walk out and hand a recording to whoever they want.  It all depends on individual state law.

      1. thanks, didn’t consider the differences in state laws (obivous) i know but i thought it be same for UK/US. 

    2. Depends on the jurisdiction, but I think in this situation the case can be easily made that the the thief was aware of the recording – it only started when the victim was ready to confront him and he glances at the camera/phone being held up by the victim. Also later he tells him has has him recorded, when he runs.

    3. Standards for recording vary from state to state, and generally also differ between audio/video and video-only recording.


      It would appear that covert recording might potentially be troublesome; but overt recording, or recording in a location with enough 3rd parties to eliminate an expectation of privacy might be a go.

    4. You can record anyone and anything in public.  The state laws vary only on who must know about it.  E.g., in Maryland, both parties must be aware of the recording.  (Which is why Linda Tripp got convicted for recording Monica Lewinski – in Maryland – without Monica’s knowledge.)  In California, only one of the parties to the conversation must know about it, IIRC.  Note: It is KNOWLEDGE that matters, not consent.  So if you talking to someone and pointing a camera at them, they have constructive knowledge that you are recording them.

        1. CA is only “two party” for private conversations.  A conversation happening outside in a cafe isn’t private.

      1. For reference, Canada is one-party consent. I make any important calls via SkypeOut and use the CallRecorder add-on to record everything by default. This has been useful on several occasions.

    5. AAs long as there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy, there’s a fair chance that it’s legal.
      When I worked at an electronic chain store, the policy was that the security cameras could record video but not audio, and the store didn’t have to prominently post a recording notice. Just a sticker at the bottom corner of the front window wall

    6. In the US, most states require single-party notification–that is, only one of the parties being recorded must be aware that the recording is happening. In most cases, that is the person who is creating the recording. Twelve states and the District of Columbia require all-party notification. Those states are: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois (debated), Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

      Since this guy was in Washington (Seattle), two-party notification was probably required. However, the guy probably fulfilled that requirement when he had his cell phone out and was obviously recording during the initial confrontation. That he continued recording later with his phone in his pocket probably doesn’t matter.

      Even if that’s not the case, the fact that the recording was made illegally simply means that two crimes were committed. It’s only if the police break the law to get evidence that the evidence becomes inadmissible. If a private citizen breaks the law to get evidence, then hands that over to the police, the evidence is still admissible. For example: if I break into your house, and while I am robbing you, I see that you have marijuana plants, and later, I get arrested and tell the police about your grow operation in exchange for leniency, the fact that I was in your house illegally when I learned about the marijuana plants doesn’t make my testimony inadmissible.

      In other words, the bike owner might, in theory, get charged with illegally recording, but the recording should still be admissible against the bike thief.

  3. From someone who lives on 45th and Hawthorne and has a bike locked up outside, FUCK YEAH DUDE.

  4. That guy did a really shitty job of running away.  Seriously.  If I ever had to run away from something, I would hope that I could do a better job of running away than that.

    1. Maybe not being familiar with the area, he went left instead of right, putting himself alongside a driving range (50 foot fence?)  Had he gone right, he would have had a chance to get away, as he would have been near the edge of UW and had some woods to run into.

      That said, his definition of running away was uh, clearly walking.

      1. Oh, are they at the U Village?  I used to shop at that QFC where they met! Noah’s Bagels is an Einstein Brothers now, huh?

      2. He lived three blocks away. They looked it up.
        Of course, that was from the Portland place where the bike was stolen, so he might not be familiar with the area that he pretends to be from, Seattle.

    2. That was some pathetic running away. I’ve never had to run from anyone cause I’m straight up legit but even I would consider that a cyclist would have trouble following me through a shopping mall or large building or such as they would have to carry or abandon their ride, then with even the slightest bit of distance and outside pursuers LOS, get transit or taxi or just, keep, going, continually putting buildings between you and their possible reacquisition LOS.

      video games, even adrenalized, would clue you in that much.

      but it’s understandable, the vast majority of criminals are stone stupid. 

      1. Haven’t you seen the movies? No one EVER goes sideways. It’s straight away from the wheeled device that’s gaining on you at ALL COSTS.

    1. god no, that sort of thing is discretionary, else even a mid size city PD would require vast warehouses, like 100,000 sq feet + of storage, rather than the mere couple tens of thousands they need now (impound lots aside). The five boroughs would need half of Jersey, and Jersey would need the other half.

  5. Love this. I just had my bike stolen a couple weeks ago and searched for it on craigslist for a couple days hoping it would pop up. This is basically my fantasy for how it would play out if I found it.

    Here’s a good trick: Go to and then paste in the craigslist category you want to keep an eye on ( for me) put a couple search terms in the search query that describe your bike (black marin), and set “how often” to as-it-happens. Google will keep you updated any time someone lists something new that matches your search. Also works for buying cool stuff :-)

  6. Very satisfying.

    He should have brought copies of all his receipts, for the bike, and custom accessories he added to it, so he could hand over a tidy package of evidence on the spot to prove its his bike, and of course sink the thief.

    1. He would have, except he originally bought it from some shady guy on Craigslist. Kidding. Great job Simon!

  7. Having stolen a bike back from someone who stole it from me, I know it’s important to keep the record of your original purchase, describing the bike and any special parts, as well as the serial number (though I suppose some advanced thieves might scratch that off a bike). When I found my bike locked to a fence, I called the police, who wanted proof of ownership; otherwise they were going to take it into custody themselves.

    It’s 13 years old now, and I want to get a new, lighter bike, but I’m worried about the next one being stolen, so I’ve held off. It’s a big problem in Vancouver. 

    1. Yeah…have some photos of you and the bike as well. There’s also the trick of putting something identifiable (business card, for example) inside the seat tube so you could pull it out to prove it’s yours. 

    2.  In Japan, all bikes are required by law to be registered with the police.  You pay ~$5 fee when you buy the bike and fill out a form.  Remembering to change it when you move is always a pain in the ass, but bikes get stolen here all the time (you’re not supposed to lock them to anything, so the old dudes who straighten bike rows can move them easily), usually by drunk salarymen who miss the last train.  A bike I gave to a friend was stolen once and found abandoned in a shrine the next town over.

      The cops here also check the serial number when they see foreigners riding bikes.  “Riding while foreign” here is as common as “driving while black” in the US.

      1. hahaha dude…. I got stopped 3 times in one trip once riding a couple suburbs to my friend’s place. The problem was that a friend had given me the bike, and a new reg sticker (which I promptly lost) so each time I had to explain that the bike was registered to Yosuke. I don’t look like a Yosuke.

        I think the other thing is that these checks usually happen at night (when insane foreigners and drunk salarymen are riding bikes) which makes it SEEM like the checks target foreigners. I never once saw cops NOT stop a bicycle if they were standing there checking stickers and I never got stopped at any reasonable time of the day.

      2. Once my friend had his bike stolen here in Japan.  He returned to his home country, and stupidly left the key in the lock while he was gone.  Many months later, he  encountered it on the street.  He just picked it up and took it home, still locked.  We then dragged it to the shop to get the lock cut off and replaced.

        On our way there, a policeman stopped us.  Two foreigners, dragging a locked bike down the street doesn’t look particularly good.   As great as the story would be if it turned out to be another bike, the check was clean and we were allowed on our merry ways.

  8. Can you actually do a citizens arrest? I’d be afraid of 1, getting stabbed by the thief and 2, getting charged with unlawful detention.   

      1. I heard that in the updated modern remake Knotts will taser Gomer til he stops twitching, then confiscate everyone’s iphones while emitting a nonstop verbal diarrhea of profanity laden threats. 

    1. Here in Illinois detaining some guy because you think he stole your bike would be a felony (unlawful restraint, 1 to 3 years, and/or fine up to $25K).

      A private person can make an arrest ONLY IF they witness a crime.

      The guy in the video was OK in that he did not try to restrain the bike seller. He did good in IDing the seller for the police and letting them lay hands on the accused thief.

          1. Looks at bike.  It’s mine.  It’s property.  It’s stolen.
            Looks at dude.  He’s selling it.  That’s trafficking.


  9. Saw a computer once described on Craigslist as “Used Computer, Black”.  Occurred to me it might not be legit.   

    1. I noticed that too.  Perhaps he should get a less pricey bike for scooting around town, and keep the expensive one for serious rides.

      1. What if your scooting around town is a serious ride?  My scooting around town is 30 miles a day (work and back). Pretty easy to spend $2500 on a bike + accessories. 

        1. That’s not really running around town, that’s more like a very long home to work commute, and good for you.  I would probably feel safer locking up a less fancy bike (outside on the street) around town.  I ride to work on my bike too (keep it inside), as well as errands and such, but it’s only worth about $350.  I personally would feel nervous about routinely locking up such a valuable bike myself, but I have had a couple stolen over the years, and I am also poor and cheap.  Let’s not pretend that a $2,500 road bike isn’t a pretty high end ride to have locked out on the street in an urban area, and no, I am not blaming him for being victimized by a scummy bike thief: *full stop*  I am very happy that he got his bike back and that he may have prevented this guy from getting more bikes.

          1. 2,500 is pretty low for a decent road bike. It’s his ride and his money, so he is allowed any bike he wants.

          2. @boingboing-1e6c44aedca0e0dc8d389b285dce9012:disqus “It’s his ride and his money, so he is allowed any bike he wants.”

            Thanks for correcting, I was definitely suggesting that he should only be allowed to own a cheap bike…….

      2. Isn’t that like wearing uncomfortable shoes to work every day and only wearing the comfortable ones to church on Sunday?

        1. I suppose it is if you leave your $2,500 shoes in a place where they could be stolen…….

          Also, it is very much like that. Wear the shoes you don’t mind getting scuffed up on the commute and put on your dress shoes at work, all the more funny because this is how many people commute to work by bike: Clothes they don’t mind getting sweaty and dirty for the ride, and then a change of clothes for the office.

    2. A friend had a pair of high end Cannondales for him and his wife. $10K or so apiece, though this was almost a decade ago.

      Right now, a Shimano carbon fiber bike will set you back $4K. A Stradalli Napoli will run $4.5K.

      Also, are you factoring in the cost of duct tape to hold your car’s door handles on, and the cost of steel wire to keep the muffler from falling off?

    3. that would be a piece of shit car. you can buy bikes for ten bucks, but they are equally piles of shite

      1. I’ve gotten good cars for under a thousand, so not necessarily. I love my bike, too, and that’s only had about 400 spent on it. But I’m a man of simply needs and tastes – I can definitely see the appeal of a more expensive ride. Just like people generally don’t buy the cheapest motorcycle that runs…

  10. Years ago, my ~$400 bike was stolen from SE Portland and, I’m told, probably sold as parts in Seattle. The $20 lock attaching the bike to the rack was cut, and the other $20 lock attaching the wheels to the bike was left on.  I assume the thief carried the bike away.  

    My next bike was $20 from Goodwill.  I put a $30 lock on it.  They cut that lock and stole that bike too.  I fantasized about baiting the thief and doing a citizens arrest.  One year, someone did just that, and they were almost stabbed.  In my fantasy though, the outcome was something like this video of Craig.  Sweet sweet justice. (My next bike was $10 from Goodwill. No one stole it. It disintegrated on a downhill when a brake caliper bent and when into the spokes.)

  11. Much more satisfying than the “Don’t Steal Bikes, Bro!” guys.    Satisfying because in 2012 America, a felony conviction is a fate far worse than a one-time asskicking by bike messengers.

    1. It’s possible to discuss reasonable advice (don’t leave valuables in sight when you leave your car; don’t walk down dark alleys; don’t ride a more expensive bike than you can afford to have stolen) without heading into victim blaming territory.

      As far the actual video, I’m impressed with the courage. I can’t imagine arranging a confrontation with a craigslist stranger who is known to have a disregard for other human beings. I don’t even feel safe meeting buyers and sellers on craiglist whom I have no reason to distrust.

      1. don’t ride a more expensive bike than you can afford to have stolen

        No, that is definitely victim blaming. Where did you get the idea that people should only own things if they can afford to have them stolen?

        1. How is that victim blaming? I’m not saying anything is his fault, only that it is probably good advice to not to have any (visible) valuables when traveling in cities. It’s like saying, “don’t take anything sailing that you can’t afford to get wet.” High risk of theft and crime is one of the downsides of living in or near cities.  I wish it weren’t so.

          Edit: I think we’re talking about different things. I’m saying that can, without blaming the victim, still talk about things that increase or decrease one’s chances of being a victim of a crime, which include leaving valuables visible in your car, or having a desirable and easily visible valuable. With respect to bikes, I know I’m not the only who thinks that way, as I read plenty in bicycling forums about how people camouflage their expensive bikes as less expensive bikes. But the way I said it, “don’t ride a bike you can’t afford to have stolen” probably came across as either elitist (you should have double money for everything) or classist (rich people deserve to be stolen from). That’s not what I meant, but I can see how it could read that way.

    2. What a douche for having a nice bike!

      That was not insinuated by anybody.  Save the histrionics.

      1. “I noticed that too.  Perhaps he should get a less pricey bike for scooting around town, and keep the expensive one for serious rides.” — Navin_Johnson

        Your comment without a doubt questions the victim’s decision on riding an expensive bike around town (and passively blames him for some aspect of the bike being stolen).

        “A woman dressed like that is just asking to get raped.”  Please stop me if I’m putting words in your mouth.

        1. LMFAO.  yeah you compare simple ‘street smart’ precautions to avoid bike theft to blaming women for being raped. Hysterical, gross, and insulting.

  12. Respect for doing that. Someone stole my bike from inside my house (Cardiff, Wales). Wasn’t happy.

  13. In a perfectly psychotic world, it would be okay to set up a bait bike and snipe the thief from a blacked-out window in the next block. BOOM! HEAD SHOT! It would be so much more popular than those Call of Duty games.

    While I’m only half kidding, I do hate thieves. They’re the most weaselly and craven type of scum.

    1. I think I’d be more into catch and release. Then you get the satisfaction of dropping them off a steep embankment and watching them roll. Or knowing they’ll wake up confused in a dumpster

    2. You’re probably not alone in that fantasy. I know it is unpopular in these circles to like anything having to do with law enforcement, but there’s one genre of police reality shows I’ll admit enjoying: bait cars. It start with the thrill of the hunt (patiently watching as ‘the prey’ coyly checks out the car, watching him approach and back away, before finally grabbing the bait… followed by an exciting rush and attack). And mixed with all that is the joy of seeing criminals hauled away, and the dramatic justice of people getting caught by their own misbehavior.

      1. …there’s one genre of police reality shows I’ll admit enjoying: bait cars.

        Is that anything like BaitBus? I guess that I should be responsible and tell you not to Google that at work.

        1. My rule-of-thumb is to assume anything you’re telling us to Google is not something I should be Googling at work.

      2. I’ve only seen it referenced on Cracked and a couple of other sites, but if it is real, the Russian TV game show Car Jack / Intercept needs to be introduced to the wider world. Contestants steal a car that has a tracking transmitter and has been reported as stolen. They must evade the police for 35 minutes, and get to keep (what’s left of) the car if they are successful. Very few manage it. 

  14. Do Americans tend not to have insurance or something? My bikes are covered on my home contents and you can bet I’d put in a claim if one of them worth £2000 got stolen.

    I was burgled in 2010 and, honestly, it was one of the least dramatic things that’s ever happened to me. My 2-year-old xbox and a bunch of games were stolen along with a bunch of jewellery (that we weren’t particularly attached to but some of which was 30+ years old and thus fairly valuable) and some other bits.

    Because the insurance was new-for-old cover but my xbox model was old enough to not be available (and most of the games weren’t available from their supplier either) I got a cash payout for their as-new value, with which I ended up buying a new TV, a new xbox, new playstation, and replaced all the games and bought a bunch more. The jewellery was insured on an antiques wording as it was so old – they gave us high-street jeweller vouchers that we sold on ebay and used to lop a nice chunk off the mortgage. Can’t recommend good home cover enough.

      1. My homeowner’s covered the cost of items in my car that was stolen that weren’t covered by auto insurance, so they’d probably cover the bike.  But there’s still a deductible.  And your premiums go up.  And they probably pay a depreciated price, not a replacement price.

        Or if you’re insured with Progressive, they’ll send their lawyers to defend the thief.

    1. In capitalist America, you are probably better off going up against a thief than against an insurance company. At least the cops will probably sympathize less with the thief…

      1. The $250 that I pay for renter’s insurance saves me $400 on my auto insurance thanks to the miracle/dodgy practice of bundling.

    2. Ah yes, the wonders of home owners’ insurance. A friend had a laptop stolen at the airport and claimed it through the insurance. His rates went up. Then the house got broken into and some things got stolen, resulting in a much more sizeable claim. It was paid, but the insurer then dropped him and now he is essentially uninsurable.

  15. Say what you want about the USA, but they still have a sense of justice over there. In Canada, the guy who got his bike stolen would be in trouble with the law for going after the thief and the thief would get absolutely nothing.

  16. A few years ago I had my unicycle stolen from outside a shop while I was inside. I wasn’t too far from home, so I went back, took my bike and rode around trying to find it. In the end I saw three chavs walking away from me down the street holding the unicycle (which I knew was mine as I’d built it from parts), so I grabbed it and cycled away. One of them followed me and tried to grab it, but as it was in on a main street he didn’t do me any damage apart from breaking a wheel on my bike. Possibly not the smartest thing I’ve ever done, but I was pretty upset about losing my unicycle and might not have been clearly thinking through the endgame at the time. Still, I didn’t lose my unicycle in the end, so it’s all good…

    1. Incidentally, the guy who chased me also said that he had bought it from a friend (supposedly some time during the 15-20 minutes it was missing). Apparently I owed him money if I wanted it back, as he had paid for it so it was rightfully his. 

  17. My bike was stolen off my porch, and I later stumbled across it locked up to a bike rack on my way home from work. I called the police about it; after and hour they arrived and basically told me they wouldn’t help me without the serial number. I had photos of the bike and receipts for all the parts (I built it up from scratch), and they simply refused to do anything apart from leave a note asking the “owner” to contact the PD. The worst part is I had to wait yet another half hour for them to go find some tape for the note before they finally left for good and I could go cut the lock off my damn bike.

    I’m glad the guy got his bike back, but I’m guessing all the charges will get dropped. Sadly, while I don’t approve of violence, the “don’t steal bikes, bro” scenario probably carries greater consequences.

  18. I picked up a Kryptonite chain lock called a “Fahgeddaboudit” that I feel confident using. The thing weighs about 8lbs, but my bike hasn’t been stolen yet.

  19. That was pretty fun to see it all taking place in UVillage and on 45th St.  “Hey, I push that crosswalk button all the time!”

    Would *not* want to ride out into 45th chasing after some scumbag, though.

  20. This striked me as a slightly foolish way to go about getting your bike back and catching the thief (though very pleased it worked out for them).

    What would the police advise you to do if you found your stolen bike for sale? Anything that would ensure you got your bike back as surely as buying it, while not taking the law into your own hands? 

    1. The police would advise you to go online and file a report which nobody would ever look at. They don’t generally bother investigating thefts.

    2. No one is taking the law into their own hands – sure, they’re confronting a criminal and aiding the law in apprehending him, but they are neither judging or sentencing him, which is what is usually implied by taking the law into one’s own hands.

      This is taking law /enforcement/ into one’s own hands, I guess…

      But citizens of all states ARE granted various law enforcement powers, so they kind of already had that…

  21. Weird video. Bike owner/video maker/inspector Callahan wannabe has an uncomfortably bizarre look.

  22. A Kryptonite bike lock, even the easily pickable variety, can be used with some chains and bars to secure the thief to an immovable object. Like a boat anchor. Preferably at low tide.

  23. That’s pretty satisfying, I guess. Although it remains unclear whether he actually stole the bike or bought the stolen bike. Either way, he should be punished, but in the latter case there’s an actual thief somewhere who’s getting away free, right?

    Also, if the guy is already being punished by the legal system, is the internet-aided public lynching really necessary as well? I’m not sure I’m in favor of vigilante humiliation as a form of justice, especially since in this case the actual regular form of legal justice seems to be working just fine.

    Anyway, there are some amusing misperceptions on both sides of this conflict: I’m no lawyer, but it seems like it should be fairly obvious to anyone that it’s not ok to purchase stolen goods. On the other side, do people really think that you can just yell out “You’re under citizen’s arrest” in any circumstance and the person just has to surrender themselves to your custody? To the extent that that’s a real thing, you have to actually witness someone committing a felony, and just yelling it out is pretty unlikely to work in any case.

  24. Some one once stole my lock and left my ‘beater’.

    Dude seemed too hyped about busting this other dude. Some rather shoddy verbal acumen.

    The worst thing would be the bike seller pulls a gun and caps buster’s ass. Or it was a ‘gang ring’ (sounds like gangrene) selling and also had back-up with him. He didn’t, and it wasn’t, so lucky this time.

    I once thought a bike had been stolen in the late fall after a night on the town. It snowed that weekend and was heavy snow all winter. In the early spring/late winter. Happening along that same venue from the fall. Lo and behold. There was my bike. Still locked up at the place I then recalled having locked it. It was hidden under a snow bank all winter ,from the road snow plows, which was receding. In hind sight, a bike buried all winter under a snow bank seems a safe place to prevent theft, minus the erosion.

  25. Good to see someone catch a thief, but know that you’ve got the right person.  I once walked up to a bike rack to unlock my ride and found someone waiting for me with 3 NYPD patrol officers.   He claimed my bike was his bike and therefore I was the thief that took it a year earlier.  He was demanding that the police return or impound it and arrest me.  I didn’t have my receipt with me, of course .  The cops asked for his documentation of the bike and let me go on my way, but we agreed that if I produced a receipt matching the serial number he would drop the claim that I stole his bike.  It took a couple of weeks, but I got out of state bike shop where I’d bought it to mail me the purchase record and he begrudgingly dropped the claim. 

    It didn’t occur to me until later that I was a forged receipt away from being arrested. 

  26. two bikes, $10,000 total. My buddy saw them for sale online, called the cops and the cops were totally in on the sting operation with him. he went to check out the bikes, then ‘called his wife’ (the cops) and they busted him

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