Oakland often appears on the "Top Most Dangerous" lists every now and again, along with a bunch of other lists that keeps the city somewhat desirable. I actually think I saw a post today that it was #3. Kimber and I have been in Oakland for over three years now and had never been robbed with the exception of the front wheel of my road bike, until now. A Monday evening awhile back I realized that the brick storage room with one entrance which has a single deadbolt lock on it which is inside of our completely secure garage was missing two of the four awesome bikes that we had stored there. I was instantly sick! The night before a car alarm had gone off at 3am and me being the awesome building manager that I am ran down there to investigate, finding nothing and writing it off as a malfunctioning car alarm.
These bikes we had purchased through pro-deals while Kimber was slaving away at Al's. It was part of our "buy as much gear as possible while it is cheap" period. They were more valuable than 3 or the 4 cars that I had ever purchased. Our babies!
We instantly got on the horn and let everyone know through FB what happened, asked for advice and created an online police report. We started to realize that we should have done a few thing differently prior to this happening which would have increased our chances of not getting hit so hard. They are:
- Record the ID numbers from the bikes. We were luckily able to track down the number on Kimber's road bike from Specialized but Cannondale didn't keep them on record so my was less identifiable and I was unable to register it on many of the stolen bike systems online.
- Have renter's insurance. We had had renter's insurance for the majority of time that we had lived in Oakland but hadn't renewed it a number of months ago. I almost renewed it about 1 month ago but decided not to go ahead with it because it didn't cover rented camera gear taken abroad.
Luckily we have a few thing that we do that were in our favor:
- Stickers. I like to put stickers on everything and luckily had put a sticker on my bike that helped us identify it much easier. Making your bike easily identifiable pays off if it ever gets stolen. If it is stock, straight out of the box you are hosed.
- Pictures. Kimber took a bunch of pictures of my bike and me while on rides with her awesome camera which also helped us identify my bicycle by specific scratches and water marks. These pictures allowed us to get the warrant which I talk about later.
|Notice the sticker on the back seat post, expanding the |
right picture allowed us to match the ebay bike to mine with
scratches and even missing gear teeth.
We spent that following Saturday searching for bikes at the surrounding flea markets. That was an experience that we didn't find enjoyable. What before would have been seen as a gold mine for good deals was now seen only as a bunch of people selling stolen goods. Kind of made us sick.
Later that day I got a call from my little brother, Andrew. HE HAD FOUND MY BICYCLE ON EBAY!!! The seller was located in Oakland and the bike had my sticker on it and various other markings that helped us identify it. We headed to the Police Department immediately and also had Andrew contact the seller through ebay to inquire about the bicycle. To our dismay the Oakland PD was CLOSED! Apparently they had flood and had to shut down. Kimber started sprinting around the area looking for an officer. The officer we found was unfortunately handling the report of the rape of a young girl so he wasn't able to give us much time. Understandable. We decided that we just needed to wait until Monday when the office opened and then go in . We also had my brother ask the seller on ebay for his address so he could "send a friend to look at the bike and possibly purchase it". The ploy worked and by 6pm we had an address, pictures that could identify my bike and a phone number. We scheduled a time to meet the guy and organized for some cops to provide us with a "Citizen Standby", whatever that means.
We met the cops a few blocks from the guys house, thinking that we could just waltz up to the guys door, get him to show us the bike, maybe get his to try to sell us Kimber's bike and then have the cops pop out and we would be gold. The cops convinced us otherwise. They looked up the guy that lived at that address and he turned out to be a pretty bad dude. He likely had both of our bicycles and who knows what he was planning for some "friend" showing up with a chance of having $750 cash in his pocket to purchase my bike. The officers explained that it wasn't uncommon for people to meet up pretending to sell something and then jump the person for his cash and run. We opted to wait a few days until they could get a search warrant and have a free-for-all of his house. We thought the chances of getting back both of our bikes was high and we also wanted to take the guy down if possible. The auction still had 4.5 days left so these odds were high.
Two days later while checking my bike on ebay I noticed that the auction was canceled 2.5 days early! Not sure how he had done this but I am betting that he sold the bike for cash just as he had tried to with us earlier. Big bummer. We still had hope that the warrant would produce Kimber's bike.
The morning before the raid was supposed to occur I randomly looked for Kimber's bike on ebay and FOUND IT! The same seller had just posted it. We informed the cops and the next time we heard from them was that evening after they had searched his house and FOUND KIMBER'S BIKE!!! The guy apparently was into all sorts of stuff like guns, stolen everything, credit card fraud, drugs.....who knows what else. The guy had camera's set up around his house, meaning that if we would have tried to show up with the cops the first time it is likely that he wouldn't have even answered the door. Other cops were tracking this guy for other things but were needing something that could provide them with the warrant.
Kimber was ecstatic to have her bike back! Mine is still MIA but hopefully the Oakland PD and the retired cops working for ebay will track it down. I don't think there is much that I personally can do. Pretty good ending though, one bad dude in jail and 1 out of 2 bikes back. I will take it. Thanks Oakland PD!
Quite the Oakland experience! Be smart out there!