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Bike vigilantes get back Kona taken from front of Tribute Pizza

Stolen Bike San Diego pointed to tents across from zoo

The new used Kona. "When I found it on Craigslist for $800, I immediately met the guy in Kearny Mesa to check it out."
The new used Kona. "When I found it on Craigslist for $800, I immediately met the guy in Kearny Mesa to check it out."

"I had a wooden baseball bat, a Louisville Slugger, in my car. And the plan was we both walk up, Patrick grabs the bike, and I watch his back just in case this guy is awake or hears us approaching. We just wanted to protect ourselves; I have no idea how desperate these guys are."

Isaiah Rockne explained to me on March 26 how he and his cycling buddy, Patrick, recovered Rockne's Kona Lava Dome bike that was stolen a week or so ago.

But first, Rockne, 35, backtracked to March 15.

"Nice bikes like the Kona are hard to come by for under a thousand dollars. So when I found it on Craigslist that March 15 morning for $800, I immediately met the guy in Kearny Mesa to check it out. He was a nice and knowledgeable fellow, who was clearly a bike enthusiast and done custom mods to the bike himself."

Rockne was super stoked on his newly acquired, used, green-colored Kona sitting on Maxxis knobby tires. So he took the rest of the day off from his event marketing manager job and called Patrick.

"There was only one lady awake, but she didn't pay attention. Then, lo and behold, the bike was sitting upside down on its handlebars and seat with the wheels up in the air."

"We went on a ride all afternoon around Balboa Park then up through University Heights on Adams Avenue," Rockne continued. "Then eventually, we wound up at Tribute Pizza at about 8 pm for an art exhibit and to grab some slices."

Tribute Pizza is located on the corner of North Park Way and Grim Avenue, about four blocks southeast of the North Park sign by University and 30th; the place is pretty busy with foot traffic, even on Tuesday nights.

"There were plenty of people walking in and out," Rockne said. "I locked the bike up with a cable lock, and the bike was visible through the windows from certain angles."

While the two cyclists were chomping down on their second slice of pizzas, they joked about the possibility of Rockne's secured bike outside getting stolen in plain view. "I went out 20 minutes later, and that's exactly what happened," Rockne exclaimed. "I knew North Park was bad, but I was pretty flabbergasted that these thieves were that bold. He must have had bolt cutters already on him. Unbelievable."

"The most mentioned place on Stolen Bikes was across the street from the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park."

In 2021 alone, 398 bikes were reported stolen from the 92104 zip code of North Park and its 10-mile radius on the BikeIndex.org website. Bike Index is a circa 2013 nonprofit organization and "most widely used and successful bicycle registration service in the world with over 771,000 cataloged bikes."

"Isaiah turned his rage into a passion and spent all night sleuthing," Patrick said to me in the March 26 interview.

That night, Rockne googled anything regarding bike theft in San Diego. He stumbled upon numerous articles and ultimately found the Stolen Bike San Diego Facebook group. Rockne continued: "I posted my story about two hours after the theft happened, and within less than an hour, I had five or six replies mentioning places to check in San Diego. The most mentioned place was across the street from the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park."

"Isaiah called me at six in the morning (on March 16), and I ignored it because I had to work that day. Then he texted me, saying, 'located the bike. I'm literally looking at it right now.' So as soon as I saw that text, I called him back and drove there. I got there in ten minutes."

Patrick, a 33-year-old accountant, knows the area well, as two thieves stole two of his bikes from his North Park backyard in the last couple of years, and he suspected his thieves were from "that place in front of the zoo; it's well known for its chop shops."

The cyclists met and left their vehicles at Zoo Drive, by the Roosevelt Middle School tennis courts. They walked across Park Boulevard and headed southbound on the sidewalk adjacent to the eastern part of Balboa Park south of Morley Field Drive. "We walked through the encampment where there were probably like ten tents," Patrick continued. "There was only one lady awake, but she didn't pay attention. Then, lo and behold, the bike was sitting upside down on its handlebars and seat with the wheels up in the air."

Rockne continued, "Everyone was dead asleep except for one bum hanging out, and there was a city worker with a white truck collecting trash nearby. The bike was butting up against the tent the [alleged] thief was sleeping in."

"We walk up stealthily," Patrick said, "I walk in front of the bike, grab the handlebars, flip it on its wheels, and ride out of there like a bat out of hell."

Rockne noticed a guy "poke his head out, confused and shocked, and I take off running. We are at least 20 yards ahead of him when he starts chasing us."

Patrick yelled, "We got the goods; let's get the f--k out of here."

The two rendezvoused by their vehicles, and "I give the bike to Isaiah [Rockne] then there's the guy [from the tent] chasing us. So I jump into my car and see the guy is standing in the middle of the road, wondering what just happened. So I drove right next to him and flipped him off hard, harder than I ever flipped anyone off in my entire life. I'm like, "f--k you, dude!"

"Thanks to everyone in the Stolen Bike San Diego Facebook group for being the vigilante group that San Diego needs," Rockne closed out. "I wouldn't have been able to find this without you. The only things missing are the literal bells and whistles, an LED headlight, and a tote bag. But other than that, it's fairly untouched."

"We always advise every victim to start with contacting their local police (usually non-emergency) first, even though in most cities these days, this is not really going anywhere due to staffing issues," said Bryan Hance, one of the co-founders of BikeIndex.org in a March 26 email. "But victims have to cover all their bases. Our stock email reply to most people for this says, 'after that, you're going to come to a fork in the road, either to pursue the bike you've found after it was stolen or to let it go' — and honestly, it's a personal decision at that point."

Since New Year's Eve, of the 771,186 cataloged bikes on the bike index website: 55 bikes were reported stolen, and four were recovered within a 10-mile radius of the 92101 zip code of San Diego. The 92101 zip code comprises Balboa Park and portions of its surrounding North Park, South Park, Golden Hill, Marston Hills, and Bankers Hill neighborhoods. In 2021, 377 bikes were reported on the index stolen from the Balboa Park zip code within a 10-mile radius, a jump from 205 in 2020 and 95 in 2019.

Within a week before this story went to print, three bikes were reported on the index as stolen from the 92101 zip code. On March 24, a black-colored Rad Power Bikes City 5 Plus and a black-colored Ridley Fenix C were stolen, and on March 20, a thief reportedly stole a silver- and gray-colored Canyon Roadlite 6.

Hance says the amount of bikes stolen and reported from San Diego County is vastly underreported. "Some people are willing to take the insurance loss and move on." But some people do not move on, "especially when thieves are just brazenly chopping the bikes right out in the open, super overtly, without a care in the world, and right under their noses."

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The new used Kona. "When I found it on Craigslist for $800, I immediately met the guy in Kearny Mesa to check it out."
The new used Kona. "When I found it on Craigslist for $800, I immediately met the guy in Kearny Mesa to check it out."

"I had a wooden baseball bat, a Louisville Slugger, in my car. And the plan was we both walk up, Patrick grabs the bike, and I watch his back just in case this guy is awake or hears us approaching. We just wanted to protect ourselves; I have no idea how desperate these guys are."

Isaiah Rockne explained to me on March 26 how he and his cycling buddy, Patrick, recovered Rockne's Kona Lava Dome bike that was stolen a week or so ago.

But first, Rockne, 35, backtracked to March 15.

"Nice bikes like the Kona are hard to come by for under a thousand dollars. So when I found it on Craigslist that March 15 morning for $800, I immediately met the guy in Kearny Mesa to check it out. He was a nice and knowledgeable fellow, who was clearly a bike enthusiast and done custom mods to the bike himself."

Rockne was super stoked on his newly acquired, used, green-colored Kona sitting on Maxxis knobby tires. So he took the rest of the day off from his event marketing manager job and called Patrick.

"There was only one lady awake, but she didn't pay attention. Then, lo and behold, the bike was sitting upside down on its handlebars and seat with the wheels up in the air."

"We went on a ride all afternoon around Balboa Park then up through University Heights on Adams Avenue," Rockne continued. "Then eventually, we wound up at Tribute Pizza at about 8 pm for an art exhibit and to grab some slices."

Tribute Pizza is located on the corner of North Park Way and Grim Avenue, about four blocks southeast of the North Park sign by University and 30th; the place is pretty busy with foot traffic, even on Tuesday nights.

"There were plenty of people walking in and out," Rockne said. "I locked the bike up with a cable lock, and the bike was visible through the windows from certain angles."

While the two cyclists were chomping down on their second slice of pizzas, they joked about the possibility of Rockne's secured bike outside getting stolen in plain view. "I went out 20 minutes later, and that's exactly what happened," Rockne exclaimed. "I knew North Park was bad, but I was pretty flabbergasted that these thieves were that bold. He must have had bolt cutters already on him. Unbelievable."

"The most mentioned place on Stolen Bikes was across the street from the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park."

In 2021 alone, 398 bikes were reported stolen from the 92104 zip code of North Park and its 10-mile radius on the BikeIndex.org website. Bike Index is a circa 2013 nonprofit organization and "most widely used and successful bicycle registration service in the world with over 771,000 cataloged bikes."

"Isaiah turned his rage into a passion and spent all night sleuthing," Patrick said to me in the March 26 interview.

That night, Rockne googled anything regarding bike theft in San Diego. He stumbled upon numerous articles and ultimately found the Stolen Bike San Diego Facebook group. Rockne continued: "I posted my story about two hours after the theft happened, and within less than an hour, I had five or six replies mentioning places to check in San Diego. The most mentioned place was across the street from the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park."

"Isaiah called me at six in the morning (on March 16), and I ignored it because I had to work that day. Then he texted me, saying, 'located the bike. I'm literally looking at it right now.' So as soon as I saw that text, I called him back and drove there. I got there in ten minutes."

Patrick, a 33-year-old accountant, knows the area well, as two thieves stole two of his bikes from his North Park backyard in the last couple of years, and he suspected his thieves were from "that place in front of the zoo; it's well known for its chop shops."

The cyclists met and left their vehicles at Zoo Drive, by the Roosevelt Middle School tennis courts. They walked across Park Boulevard and headed southbound on the sidewalk adjacent to the eastern part of Balboa Park south of Morley Field Drive. "We walked through the encampment where there were probably like ten tents," Patrick continued. "There was only one lady awake, but she didn't pay attention. Then, lo and behold, the bike was sitting upside down on its handlebars and seat with the wheels up in the air."

Rockne continued, "Everyone was dead asleep except for one bum hanging out, and there was a city worker with a white truck collecting trash nearby. The bike was butting up against the tent the [alleged] thief was sleeping in."

"We walk up stealthily," Patrick said, "I walk in front of the bike, grab the handlebars, flip it on its wheels, and ride out of there like a bat out of hell."

Rockne noticed a guy "poke his head out, confused and shocked, and I take off running. We are at least 20 yards ahead of him when he starts chasing us."

Patrick yelled, "We got the goods; let's get the f--k out of here."

The two rendezvoused by their vehicles, and "I give the bike to Isaiah [Rockne] then there's the guy [from the tent] chasing us. So I jump into my car and see the guy is standing in the middle of the road, wondering what just happened. So I drove right next to him and flipped him off hard, harder than I ever flipped anyone off in my entire life. I'm like, "f--k you, dude!"

"Thanks to everyone in the Stolen Bike San Diego Facebook group for being the vigilante group that San Diego needs," Rockne closed out. "I wouldn't have been able to find this without you. The only things missing are the literal bells and whistles, an LED headlight, and a tote bag. But other than that, it's fairly untouched."

"We always advise every victim to start with contacting their local police (usually non-emergency) first, even though in most cities these days, this is not really going anywhere due to staffing issues," said Bryan Hance, one of the co-founders of BikeIndex.org in a March 26 email. "But victims have to cover all their bases. Our stock email reply to most people for this says, 'after that, you're going to come to a fork in the road, either to pursue the bike you've found after it was stolen or to let it go' — and honestly, it's a personal decision at that point."

Since New Year's Eve, of the 771,186 cataloged bikes on the bike index website: 55 bikes were reported stolen, and four were recovered within a 10-mile radius of the 92101 zip code of San Diego. The 92101 zip code comprises Balboa Park and portions of its surrounding North Park, South Park, Golden Hill, Marston Hills, and Bankers Hill neighborhoods. In 2021, 377 bikes were reported on the index stolen from the Balboa Park zip code within a 10-mile radius, a jump from 205 in 2020 and 95 in 2019.

Within a week before this story went to print, three bikes were reported on the index as stolen from the 92101 zip code. On March 24, a black-colored Rad Power Bikes City 5 Plus and a black-colored Ridley Fenix C were stolen, and on March 20, a thief reportedly stole a silver- and gray-colored Canyon Roadlite 6.

Hance says the amount of bikes stolen and reported from San Diego County is vastly underreported. "Some people are willing to take the insurance loss and move on." But some people do not move on, "especially when thieves are just brazenly chopping the bikes right out in the open, super overtly, without a care in the world, and right under their noses."

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