Ontario man fights $630 to reclaim stolen motorcycle

A London, Ontario vehicle owner had to borrow a credit card to cover the costs of getting his stolen motorcycle home following a series of errors, including one by the police.

'Feels like punishment,' says London man, victim of theft

Ian Stenhouse is glad to have his 2010 Kawasaki back but contests how much it cost to reclaim it from the police. (Amanda Margison/CBC)

When Ian Stenhouse's motorcycle was stolen on a Sunday afternoon from the parking garage of his London, Ont. apartment building, he was even more surprised when a posting on social media led to its recovery.

That feeling of surprise quickly turned to shock when the 30-year-old learned he had to pay $630 to reclaim his property. 

The towing and storage bill for Stenhouse's stolen motorcycle. (Amanda Margison/CBC)

"I think it's a bit silly that I should have to pay to get my stolen motorcycle back," Stenhouse said, sitting on his electric green 2010 Ninja Kawasaki. 

"It kinda feels like punishment, you know." 

The bill was for towing the bike from the ditch where it was found, plus five days in a private impound lot used by police to store stolen vehicles until owners are located.

Ross' Services in London where the motorcycle was towed and stored (Amanda Margison/CBC)

Stenhouse, who did not have theft insurance on his motorcycle, had to pay the entire cost.

Towing and storage fees for stolen vehicles are standard across Ontario, imposed by most police forces. In Toronto for example, the prices are listed and vary depending on how far a vehicle is hauled and its size.

"I didn't opt for theft because it was almost always locked up indoors," he said. "This is a hard lesson to learn." 

Errors cause cost creep

Stenhouse, who had to borrow his boss's credit card to pay the bill, is contesting the cost, saying it was unnecessarily high due to a typo made by the attending police officer. 

When police took possession of the stolen vehicle, a digit in the Vehicle Information Number was entered incorrectly into police records, meaning officers were never able to identify or contact Stenhouse about his motorcycle. 

Police made an error entering the VIN, so records showed no record of the motorcycle when searched by its correct VIN. (Amanda Margison/CBC)

"When I learned the bike had been found, I went to police headquarters twice and had them look up the VIN. Each time, they said they had no record of the bike." 

The motorcycle sat for four additional days in an impound lot, and was towed to a new lot, incurring costs all the while. 

After multiple calls and emails, including one from CBC, the London police agreed they made a mistake and have since offered to pay $200 to help cover some of the charges. 

CBC also contacted Ross's Towing in London. After reviewing the bill, the company said Stenhouse had been overcharged $125.

Owner David Ross said the motorcycle was accidentally impounded as a car – a price difference of about $30/day –  and has offered to repay the difference.

Social media detectives 

The motorcycle was badly damaged, but Stenhouse credits sharp-eyed social media users for their investigative work and its recovery.

"When the bike was stolen, we posted a picture of it to Facebook and Reddit, and people responded like crazy," he said while scrolling through dozens of comments from people promising to keep their eyes peeled. 

Word about the stolen bike made the rounds on social media. (Amanda Margison/CBC)

Stenhouse also posted the surveillance video of the theft taking place, hoping someone would recognize the two men in helmets, one smashing the ignition switch, the other waiting in the wings to hotwire and drive off with the motorbike. 

Justin Dimoff didn't see those posts but when he found the bike dumped in a ditch behind his workplace, he also posted images to social media.

Justin Dimoff's selfie with the stolen motorcycle he found. (Facebook)

"I took a selfie of it and put it on Facebook to say look what I found!" Dimoff says. "That linked to a woman who had seen the post about the stolen bike and eventually we were able to track down the owner." 

Stenhouse says if he ever saves up enough money to repair the Kawasaki, damaged to the tune of about $2,500, he will be investing in a much better lock, as well as theft insurance. 

The two thieves seen on the surveillance video have not been found.