Don’t ask, just do the right thing: thank thieves for returning woman’s bike

A 21-year-old woman returned her stolen bike to find that it was significantly damaged. When police learned about it, they took it away and had it ‘fixed’

On 28 September, a 21-year-old woman went to retrieve her parked bike in Toronto. All of a sudden, she was informed by police that she had misplaced it. While she was still inside, police say she heard them knocking on the door.

Police told her a man had snatched her bike in an elevator. They told her to hang up and return the bike. To the disbelief of many, they still showed up at her door.

When the woman returned the next day, the bike was damaged beyond repair and the police said they would have it fixed. The bike is now back on its way to the owner.

“This story has a pretty unique ending. Most people don’t get their bike back,” said police spokesman Mark Pugash. “Often times, we’ll take it because it is a stolen bike, because of the damage it has suffered.”

Pugash said that Toronto police have a modest $200 budget for solving thefts. In addition to police staffing, the added cost of responding to bikes is difficult to cover, as many appear on leads taken from the public. Officers with a spare moment after responding to a murder may have a bit of extra time to spare – but it is rare.

“It is the first time I’ve ever had a theft from a drawer happen because the pants were, you know, ripped or stained or whatever,” Pugash said. “But other than that, we rarely, rarely see that.”

Pugash said that Winnipeg, Manitoba, police go through bicycle storage lockers far more frequently than Toronto because crimes in Winnipeg often involve stolen bikes, not just cash.

“If you’re in a crime community, sometimes it is more of an incentive to steal bikes,” Pugash said.

It is worth noting that the woman’s ability to return her bike wasn’t likely in part due to luck, but rather an outpouring of goodwill from the public, according to Pugash. Many Facebook users and local media outlets were quick to voice their support.

“The total strangers that came and helped with it, I didn’t know how they were doing it but it definitely made a positive impact on her life,” Pugash said.

“I think it’s a pretty amazing story,” he added. “It’s nice to see that when the community comes together to help the police solve a case that they’re successful.”

The story did not set off alarm bells among the National Post’s justice columnist, Lisa Miller, who wrote that it should be applauded for the thief’s deniability. Miller was also critical of the justice system for assuming it was indeed the thief who robbed the woman, as he hadn’t bothered to turn himself in.

Theft in Canada has been alarmingly on the rise for years. In 2016, there were an estimated 30,000 bikes reported stolen in Canada, making up 90% of all reported thefts, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The report stated: “Bike theft represents a significant public safety concern in Canada, and is especially a problem in urban environments where vast numbers of bikes are stolen in broad daylight. In all of the major cities surveyed, and many smaller cities, it is estimated that bike theft represents a public safety problem of significant magnitude, with the potential to affect a wide range of communities, including low-income, middle-income, and high-income areas, and people who live in less densely populated areas.”

Miller also quoted a 2015 statistic from the consultancy Sienna which found that Toronto had the highest rates of stolen bikes and bikes that had been returned to the owner. Although she did not explicitly cite that statistic, it is worth noting that Sienna is from Toronto.

Miller praised the woman for doing the right thing, writing that: “We should expect (and actually encourage) thefts. It is no less damaging to someone’s sense of well-being for the police to discover they are the victim of a vicious crime than to discover they are the criminal.”

“It’s certainly a very noble thing

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