ANN ARBOR – Aleksandra Gage had no idea that turning to Nextdoor could be the key to getting her daughter’s stolen bike back, but in this case, she was one of the few lucky ones.
Gage, who lives on Ann Arbor’s west side, posted a video on the neighborhood social media platform on Saturday of a man stealing her daughter’s bike from the family’s front porch around 2 a.m. several days prior.
After filing a police report, she and her husband remembered the bike had an Apple tracking device, which they discovered was torn off and tossed into the bushes at Liberty Plaza downtown. It was a disappointing development in the search for their daughter’s bike which they bought only days before it was stolen.
Gage said she was overwhelmed by the responses she got from community members, and suddenly received a lead from a neighbor who had seen the post and was certain they located the stolen bike at Play It Again Sports -- a new and used sports gear reseller in Westgate Shopping Center.
“The wonderful neighbor found the bike, talked to the store, said they were very professional and nice,” she said.
The police were alerted and Gage went to the store with an officer the next morning only to discover the shop had sold the bike.
“It turns out somebody put the bike on hold,” said Gage. “They didn’t communicate with the next day’s shift that they shouldn’t sell the bike so the people came back and bought the bike.”
Although she said she believes the sale was an honest mistake and a result of miscommunication among store employees, she said the situation quickly became unpleasant.
“This was the part where I was quite shocked,” she said. “(The store owner) offered us money and store credit because he didn’t want to deal with it. But a report was filed – it’s beyond store credit. The owner yelled at my husband, victim-blaming him.”
The store contacted the family that had just purchased the bike, who said they did not want to return it and their child was upset.
Gage left the store confused by the developments and unsure if the bike would be recovered.
The next day, she received a call from the Ann Arbor Police Department saying that the bike had been retrieved and was ready to be picked up at the store.
As for the thief, the police department said the same man stole and sold the bike and they weren’t too familiar with him.
Gage said they decided to press charges, but they would like to go the restorative justice route.
“We want to try to make this a positive story for the community,” she said. “I do believe in change and positive outcomes and I do not believe in retribution. This was not a vile crime but this person is responsible and we need to know if he has stolen and sold more bikes.”
Bike thefts are common in Ann Arbor, said AAPD spokeswoman Lieutenant Bonnie Thiel.
“As of Sept. 28, we’ve had year-to-date 148 bikes stolen in Ann Arbor,” said Thiel. “I would say it’s probably exaggerated a bit by the college community. We have a lot of people who rely on bikes for transportation and it’s a target-rich environment, unfortunately.”
In Gage’s case, both of the bikes on her porch were unlocked at the time of the theft, but Thiel said thieves go to extreme measures to steal bikes that are secured and locked.
“The majority of them are locked, which is alarming,” said Thiel. “If it’s secured to a wood railing on a porch, sometimes they will break the wood railing. They will cut locks with bolt cutters. Sometimes, we’re not sure how they’re getting the because the bikes are secured by those U-shaped locks that are pretty impermeable but they’re still being stolen.”
Thiel said the best way to protect a bike from being stolen is to keep it inside your home, though she acknowledges that isn’t always a viable option for residents.
As for what to do if your bike is stolen, she said knowing the serial number of the bike is key.
“Having it written down, taking a photo of it and having a photograph of your bike as well is very helpful for us,” she said.
Thiel said many stolen bikes show up at local bike shops and second hand stores, and that store owners do work with the police to try to identify them. However, the majority of stolen bikes in Ann Arbor do not get recovered.
Play It Again Sports declined to comment for this story.