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How Hillcrest and North Park fight back against bike thieves

"I walked by Morley Field... I ran over and pushed him off."

Jamis City bike on right; on left another photo posted by victim.
Jamis City bike on right; on left another photo posted by victim.

On June 30, a local reached out to the 1,700-plus members of the Stolen Bike San Diego Facebook forum. "My Jamis City bike was stolen from my garage in Hillcrest last night along with my husband's bike. I drove [a]round this morning and found the culprits, but unfortunately, I was alone so could not approach the group."

She uploaded a photo of her aqua green-colored bike before it was stolen. The other image she posted depicted three individuals on the lawn of the Newbreak Church on Normal Street and Harvey Milk Street, a block north of University Avenue. One person in the photograph appeared to be a 6-foot man wearing a black shirt, a black baseball cap, a black backpack, a dark-colored pair of distressed pants, and grey sneakers — pushing a bike towards Normal Street. The other person stood closer to a different bike that lay on the grass by the church's wrought-iron fence.

"The culture/belief of 'it's okay to steal' comes from the pits of hell," Ivan commented in part underneath the victim's photos.

"They were already taking his apart to disguise it," the victim explained of her husband's stolen bicycle.

I reached out to the victim for an update but did not receive a response by the time this article went to print; she did post an update on the local bike theft forum that Wednesday later in the daytime. "I walked by the Morley Field [by] Balboa Park and saw the same guy as this morning riding it. So I ran over and pushed him off. I don't know what came over me as I was still alone, but I wasn't letting him get away. I pleaded with him to give it back as it was special to me, but he was not aggressive. He said he bought it, but I don't believe [it]. They all had nice bikes in the group. But anyway, I thanked him for doing the right thing by giving it back."

The victim added that she was shaking during the confrontation and posted an accompanying video meme of her recovered bike. The basket on the bike's handlebars still appeared intact.

"I was shaking too," commented an Ocean Beach cyclist. "I was just as scared getting my bike back in a similar way. [I] called 911; they said [to] call non-emergency. Waited a few minutes, and I just approached him in an aggressive way, but he did not fight back and said he also just bought it."

"Wow!!" continued Joseph Herrera on the aqua-colored bike recovery update. "Great story but glad you are safe and got your bike back!"

Herrera was my North Park neighbor when I lived off University Avenue. On July 4, we conversed while simultaneously prepping for festivities later that night.

"I've seen that before with other people, where the [bike theft victims] go do that. Morley Field is a chop shop. It's a location where they gather to modify and sell the bikes that they have stolen from the North Park and Hillcrest neighborhoods."

Herrera and others on the stolen bike forum snap photos of groups of individuals breaking down bicycles in areas around the county, then post the images online.

"They like to take the rims off of the bicycles first to conceal the bike's identity; then the seat post has been modified and so forth. They sometimes can't ride them because the crankcases don't necessarily match, and they have to walk them."

On Herrera's birthday this year, he said thieves broke into their North Park property through their fence, clipped the cables protecting their two bicycles, a bike trailer, and bike seat, and took off with the whole lot. "There's no lock that can withstand a 3-foot bolt cutter that goes through an inch of steel." Two of Herrera's other bikes were snatched from their sunroom when they just moved in. So Herrera put up security cameras, then patrolled his neighborhood streets.

"I walked around and asked people, 'What's your business here? You're casing houses. I've seen you, and you're not welcome here.' If they approach me in an aggressive manner, I will defend myself, and that's when I realized that is what's going to take these people to go. So I cleaned up my neighborhood."

Lily Williams from BikeIndex.org, warned our bike theft victims saying, "whoever has your bike might not know it's stolen" on a blog she wrote titled: "Bike safety tips for recovering your own bicycle."

"If someone has or lists your bike and you want to confront them, remember that they could truly think they got a screaming good deal on a sale. Your bike could have also been stolen, abandoned, picked up, abandoned again. It goes on and on."

"Your bike's journey once it leaves your possession might not make much sense, but it's not on you to accuse someone of bike theft. Even if you have concrete evidence that your bike's thief is a serial offender and will strike again if you don't do something, your local law enforcement might not be able to help. They'll be even less inclined to assist if you haven't filed a police report on the theft, to begin with."

Many cyclists on the Stolen Bike San Diego forum advise other cyclists to register their bikes on BikeIndex.org. This "bike registry gives everyone the ability to register and recover bicycles. It's "the most widely used and successful bicycle registration service in the world, with over 286,000 cataloged bikes, 850 community partners, and tens of thousands of daily searches. It's a database used and searched by individuals, bike shops, police departments, and other apps."

As of July 5, nine bikes were stolen in San Diego County and reported on BikeIndex.org since the month started; three owners recovered their bicycles.

"Citizens have to take it upon themselves to fight back for their property," Herrera added. "Morley Park is Central Division's responsibility even though the bikes are stolen out of mid-city. That is where the biggest disconnect with the police is. So we started complaining. Then they transfer the call to dispatch, and they take the call with a non-emergency tone saying, 'okay, it's a bicycle.' To dispatch, they are probably not a cyclist and probably have never seen a $13,000-$15,000 mountain bike or road bike. That's the sentiment from people [on the forums]. On a rare occasion, you get a dispatch that asks you if you see your bicycle, and then when they send someone, their response is good — but the rest of the time, it's terrible."

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Jamis City bike on right; on left another photo posted by victim.
Jamis City bike on right; on left another photo posted by victim.

On June 30, a local reached out to the 1,700-plus members of the Stolen Bike San Diego Facebook forum. "My Jamis City bike was stolen from my garage in Hillcrest last night along with my husband's bike. I drove [a]round this morning and found the culprits, but unfortunately, I was alone so could not approach the group."

She uploaded a photo of her aqua green-colored bike before it was stolen. The other image she posted depicted three individuals on the lawn of the Newbreak Church on Normal Street and Harvey Milk Street, a block north of University Avenue. One person in the photograph appeared to be a 6-foot man wearing a black shirt, a black baseball cap, a black backpack, a dark-colored pair of distressed pants, and grey sneakers — pushing a bike towards Normal Street. The other person stood closer to a different bike that lay on the grass by the church's wrought-iron fence.

"The culture/belief of 'it's okay to steal' comes from the pits of hell," Ivan commented in part underneath the victim's photos.

"They were already taking his apart to disguise it," the victim explained of her husband's stolen bicycle.

I reached out to the victim for an update but did not receive a response by the time this article went to print; she did post an update on the local bike theft forum that Wednesday later in the daytime. "I walked by the Morley Field [by] Balboa Park and saw the same guy as this morning riding it. So I ran over and pushed him off. I don't know what came over me as I was still alone, but I wasn't letting him get away. I pleaded with him to give it back as it was special to me, but he was not aggressive. He said he bought it, but I don't believe [it]. They all had nice bikes in the group. But anyway, I thanked him for doing the right thing by giving it back."

The victim added that she was shaking during the confrontation and posted an accompanying video meme of her recovered bike. The basket on the bike's handlebars still appeared intact.

"I was shaking too," commented an Ocean Beach cyclist. "I was just as scared getting my bike back in a similar way. [I] called 911; they said [to] call non-emergency. Waited a few minutes, and I just approached him in an aggressive way, but he did not fight back and said he also just bought it."

"Wow!!" continued Joseph Herrera on the aqua-colored bike recovery update. "Great story but glad you are safe and got your bike back!"

Herrera was my North Park neighbor when I lived off University Avenue. On July 4, we conversed while simultaneously prepping for festivities later that night.

"I've seen that before with other people, where the [bike theft victims] go do that. Morley Field is a chop shop. It's a location where they gather to modify and sell the bikes that they have stolen from the North Park and Hillcrest neighborhoods."

Herrera and others on the stolen bike forum snap photos of groups of individuals breaking down bicycles in areas around the county, then post the images online.

"They like to take the rims off of the bicycles first to conceal the bike's identity; then the seat post has been modified and so forth. They sometimes can't ride them because the crankcases don't necessarily match, and they have to walk them."

On Herrera's birthday this year, he said thieves broke into their North Park property through their fence, clipped the cables protecting their two bicycles, a bike trailer, and bike seat, and took off with the whole lot. "There's no lock that can withstand a 3-foot bolt cutter that goes through an inch of steel." Two of Herrera's other bikes were snatched from their sunroom when they just moved in. So Herrera put up security cameras, then patrolled his neighborhood streets.

"I walked around and asked people, 'What's your business here? You're casing houses. I've seen you, and you're not welcome here.' If they approach me in an aggressive manner, I will defend myself, and that's when I realized that is what's going to take these people to go. So I cleaned up my neighborhood."

Lily Williams from BikeIndex.org, warned our bike theft victims saying, "whoever has your bike might not know it's stolen" on a blog she wrote titled: "Bike safety tips for recovering your own bicycle."

"If someone has or lists your bike and you want to confront them, remember that they could truly think they got a screaming good deal on a sale. Your bike could have also been stolen, abandoned, picked up, abandoned again. It goes on and on."

"Your bike's journey once it leaves your possession might not make much sense, but it's not on you to accuse someone of bike theft. Even if you have concrete evidence that your bike's thief is a serial offender and will strike again if you don't do something, your local law enforcement might not be able to help. They'll be even less inclined to assist if you haven't filed a police report on the theft, to begin with."

Many cyclists on the Stolen Bike San Diego forum advise other cyclists to register their bikes on BikeIndex.org. This "bike registry gives everyone the ability to register and recover bicycles. It's "the most widely used and successful bicycle registration service in the world, with over 286,000 cataloged bikes, 850 community partners, and tens of thousands of daily searches. It's a database used and searched by individuals, bike shops, police departments, and other apps."

As of July 5, nine bikes were stolen in San Diego County and reported on BikeIndex.org since the month started; three owners recovered their bicycles.

"Citizens have to take it upon themselves to fight back for their property," Herrera added. "Morley Park is Central Division's responsibility even though the bikes are stolen out of mid-city. That is where the biggest disconnect with the police is. So we started complaining. Then they transfer the call to dispatch, and they take the call with a non-emergency tone saying, 'okay, it's a bicycle.' To dispatch, they are probably not a cyclist and probably have never seen a $13,000-$15,000 mountain bike or road bike. That's the sentiment from people [on the forums]. On a rare occasion, you get a dispatch that asks you if you see your bicycle, and then when they send someone, their response is good — but the rest of the time, it's terrible."

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