Bike stolen? One Park Slope family simply stole it back

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Here’s one way to defeat bicycle theft: steal back the wheels yourself.

A Park Slope family became vigilantes after a week-long search for their stolen bike led to Ditmas Park — but police called to the scene would not reclaim it for them.

Christian John and his family’s oversized Dutch cycle disappeared from its nightly parking place on Fifth Avenue and Third Street sometime between Nov. 23 and Thanksgiving Day. After finding the beloved bike gone, John filed a police report, mounted a neighborhood fliering effort, and alerted members of his church congregation.

The story was reported on BikeBlogNYC and BrooklynSpoke, who published pictures of the unique cycle with the family’s number, as well.

A week passed until a Ditmas Park resident called the Johns on Dec. 2, saying that a bicycle locked on Cortelyou Road looked similar to one he’d seen on the Internet.

The family rushed to the scene, kids in tow, and called the police only to discover that the cops would not cut the lock without the bike’s serial number.

Neither John nor his wife, Amy, had the digits, but they did have plenty of family pictures with the cycle, but it wasn’t enough to convince the police.

“The cops were like cops,” said John. “I guess they have bigger fish to fry than stolen bicycles.”

Of course, that’s not how the NYPD saw it.

“How do we know it’s their bike?” a police spokesman asked later. “We can’t give people back stuff just because they say it’s theirs. We need some sort of proof of purchase and a serial number.”

That’s the official word, of course, but police policy is not entirely consistent. After all, John had filed a report with the 78th Precinct in Park Slope a week before about the stolen cycle — and no one asked for the serial number then.

Nonetheless, according to John, the policeman on the scene suggested to his wife that there’s another way around the proper channels.

“He told her, ‘I’m going say to you that the lock doesn’t look like it would be that difficult to cut,’ ” said John, who rushed to a hardware store, bought a bolt cutter and used it to liberate his stolen two-wheeler, one of an estimated 100,000 cycles that are stolen each year in the city.

But this story of Wild West justice in modern Brooklyn had a happy ending, including the cliched ride into the sunset.

“I clipped it,” said John. “And then we got in the bike and rode the kids home.”

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/from_where_isit.

Updated 4:16 pm, January 3, 2012: Story was altered to better reflect the timeline. That said, some of our commenters are, frankly, going too far to suggest that Rupert Murdoch's ownership of The Paper "ruined" this story. The Paper has the same editor — a flawed human being like the rest of us — before Murdoch bought the Paper and after. Sorry, folks.
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Reader Feedback

Harry from Newport News Virginia says:
It's GREAT to see someone take a stand against thieves that have no regard for people's property. Kind of hard to hid a cargo bike and it's even harder to carry them indoors or upstairs.

Congratulations on getting your bike back!!!!! I would imagine that most of us would do much the same thing to get OUR rides back.
Dec. 28, 2011, 8:36 am

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