When a local woman had her bicycle stolen late last year she did what most people would do, she filed a report with the Philadelphia Police Department. But while the woman waited for results from the police, she did a little investigating of her own.
According to the Department, after the woman -- whose name they would not release -- reported her bicycle stolen on Dec. 12, she began searchig on craigslist and ebay, and in nearby bike stores to see if her bike had been put up for sale. She found nothing.
She then joined the "Philadelphia stolen bikes" group on Facebook and posted a photo and information about her bike on the group's wall. Months passed with no leads, but then earlier this week, a group member responded to let her know that a bike like hers had been posted for sale on craigslist for $1,000.
From there the woman sprung into action, setting up her own little sting operation. Posing as a buyer, she contacted the seller on craigslist and set up a meeting. She then contacted the Third Police district and they placed an officer in the distance to observe the transaction. When the seller arrived, Police were able to confirm that it was in fact the woman's bike by matching the serial number and the paint colors with the photo the woman had taken. She got her bike back and the thief was arrested.
Lieutenant John Stanford said the PPD helps people in situations like this fairly often.
"We do this with a number of different items, not just bicycles. There have been many times where we've worked with the public to help individuals get their stolen items back," Stanford said.
While in this particular case the victim of the theft took an active role in trying to find the stolen item, Stanford encouraged people not to pursue investigations of thefts without police assistance.
"This woman did a good amount of work on her own. We don’t suggest that people go out and confront anyone or do their own investigations, but if you come across the item online and you've filed a report with us, we encourage people to contact us and we will help to retrieve the stolen items," he said.
PPD advised people to keep photos of their items and to write down serial numbers when applicable, as both could be helpful to finding an item if it's been stolen. Bike owners are also encouraged to register their bicycles with crime prevention officers in their district.
Each police district has a community relations officer or crime prevention officer on staff Monday through Friday during normal business hours.