British Columbia

North Van woman recovers stolen bike herself — and says police just followed along

A North Vancouver mountain biker has happily reunited with her stolen bike, but she says it happened because of her own legwork and police did little to follow the leads she provided.

2 of 4 bikes stolen from a locked shed were discovered for sale, largely thanks to independent sleuthing

Sharlene Cross stands with her recovered bike, a Liv full-suspension mountain bike. She says she's lucky to have it back after thieves took it in June, but she's frustrated she didn't get more help from police. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Sharlene Cross and her household in North Vancouver were broadsided with the theft of four bikes June 29 — three full-suspension mountain bikes and a road bike, together worth about $10,000.

Cross said the bikes were locked up inside a shed behind the house that was also locked up, but that didn't stop thieves from making off with the bikes around 2 a.m.

Cross's mountain bike and her roommate Lloyd Rice-Cook's high-end road bike have been recovered since the theft, but two other roommates' downhill mountain bikes are still missing.

"I feel very lucky to get my bike back, but unfortunately it was all my own work — not the cops that helped out," said Cross on Tuesday.

The group reported the thefts with North Vancouver RCMP, but Cross says they were told there wasn't much that could be done.

The two bikes that have not been recovered are a Kona Operator and Norco Aurum. (Sharlene Cross)

About a week later, Rice-Cook found his bike listed for sale on Facebook Marketplace and called the police.

"They said they'd take it from there," said Cross. But nothing happened so they called back.

She said police told them an undercover operation couldn't be set up for a few days.

So Rice-Cook and his friends decided to confront the seller themselves and let police know their plan. Cross said the seller claimed to have purchased the bike in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside via a website called letgo.com.

Vancouver police showed up after the bike had already been handed over by the seller. 

"As far as we can tell, the cops unfortunately never did anything," said Cross.

'We pretty much did all the work for them'

Then a few days later, Cross found her bike listed on letgo.com. She tracked the seller to Facebook, where she said there appeared to be many more stolen bikes. On the website Reddit, Cross said a few people seemed familiar with the seller as someone dealing in stolen bikes.

She sent Vancouver police the info, but nothing happened.

Cross got in touch with the seller on Facebook and on Saturday they arranged to meet. Cross called police to let them know and a couple Vancouver Police officers arrived to help.

She said they handcuffed the seller and her partner and detained them for about 15 minutes, but then released them.

"Once the cops were there, they were amazing, and I'm glad they were there," said Cross. "But it is frustrating... We pretty much did all the work for them.

Lloyd Rice-Cook poses for a photo with his De Rosa carbon fibre road bike. Rice-Cook managed to find the bike listed for sale online after it was stolen. He confronted the seller along with two friends to recover it. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"I know there's policies and procedures they need to play along with, but I don't understand why they aren't doing more when bike theft is so big in Vancouver," she said.

The Vancouver Police Department did not provide a comment for this story.

'A pretty difficult charge to prove in court'

Sgt. Peter DeVries with North Vancouver RCMP said police share the frustration felt by bike theft victims.

"I've had my bike stolen," said DeVries. "It's a really upsetting feeling."

He said the department works closely with neighbouring police departments on cases, including stolen bikes, but stolen property is one of the more challenging crimes to investigate.

"It's a pretty difficult charge to prove in court," said DeVries. "The chances are fairly low — it's really difficult to return those bicycles in most cases."

He said if a bike can be recovered, it's considered a win, even if the suspect can't be arrested or charged, and only a minority of stolen bikes are ever recovered.

DeVries said if people feel they aren't getting enough action from police on a case, ask to speak with a supervisor and don't let it go.

Cross's message for other bike theft victims?

"Don't give up, keep searching those sites," she said.


Do you have more to add to this story? Email rafferty.baker@cbc.ca

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker

About the Author

Rafferty Baker is a video journalist with CBC News, based in Vancouver. You can find his stories on CBC Radio, television, and online at cbc.ca/bc.

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