Woman says police suggest she set up 'citizen sting' to get stolen bike back

Team 10 finds new technology to prevent bike theft

SAN DIEGO - A theft victim found her stolen bike on Craigslist, and told Team 10 police suggested she set up her own "citizen sting" to get her ride back.

"It's my car, it's how I get around," said Rachel Bartels.

She ditched her car seven years ago for a $3,000 Kline bicycle. When it was stolen off her front porch, she said she felt violated.

"My second thought was let's get this guy. I was outraged," said Bartels.

When she found her stolen bike on Craigslist hours after it was stolen, she called the person selling it.

"He said, 'This bike is so light you could throw it over your head and run down the street with it,'" Bartels said. "And I thought, 'Ugh -- is that what you did with my bike?'"

Bartels then called the San Diego Police Department and spoke with a detective.

"It was implied that I set up this meeting and kind of get my bike back on my own," Bartels said.

There are videos on the Internet that show people setting up their own stings and to get their bikes back from thieves.

One video is of a bike theft victim from Seattle driving to Portland to get his bike and get the thief arrested. (See more on this part of the story today on 10News at 5.)

"I would not feel safe going to meet someone who came up onto my porch and stole my property like that," Bartels said.

So she called Team 10 and talked to Investigative Producer JW August.

"JW was like, 'I am so glad you are not going on that. It's not safe,'" Bartels said.

Team 10 went to San Diego police and asked them to clarify the department's policy.

"We don't want people walking into a situation they are not prepared for," said San Diego police spokeswoman Lt. Andra Brown.

We asked Brown why the detective told the victim that's what people do when their bikes are stolen.

Brown said the department does not advise people to set up "citizen stings."

"Just because we ask people not to do foolish things or silly things, or things that would endanger themselves, doesn't mean that people don't still do them," said Brown.

Black Mountain sales manager Michael Larsson recently went to the Interbike Show Las Vegas. That's where he saw new technology designed to guard against bike theft. It's called Mobiloc.

On Mobiloc's website it is "billed as the first frame-attaching, light weight cable lock with GPS."

The release date is scheduled for January.

Larsson said it's a lock box for a bike's frame. It's retractable, and pulls out and locks onto something anchored.

"If the system is compromised, it will send a text message or signal to your cell phone," Larsson said.

The lock will cost $40, and with the GPS service the prices goes up to $160.

The chip can last three years and works with a smartphone or computer app.

"If the bike is moved, it will give a location beacon on an app on your phone," Larsson said, so the owner could call police as the would-be thief is trying to move it.

Bartels, never got her stolen bike back.

"Bike theft is very common and it's low risk, high-reward," Bartels said. Bike thieves are usually never caught and rarely punished, and I would like to see that changed."

Additional Resources:

-- There is a San Diego Twitter account dedicated to tweeting out the make and model of a stolen bike, so others can be on the lookout for it:

https://twitter.com/stolenbikessan

-- There is a national registry of stolen bikes on the web, that can help prevent resale:

http://www.nationalbikeregistry.com/

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