Thousands of Bike Snoop Detectives Track Stolen Cycles
Clintonville resident Ben Klinger said he rode his specialty Allez Sport bike to work at Lucky’s Market at 2770 N. High St. in Columbus on a January day, 2020 as usual, locked him in there outside and entered inside.
When he got out of work at 11 p.m., he said, his lock had been cut and the bike was no longer there.
âI was so confused and frustrated,â he said. âI didn’t really know how to feel; it took a while to process everything.
Klinger said the next day he filed a report with the Columbus Police Division and released information about his bike, which he suspected had been stolen, the the Facebook Bike Snoop group.
The group’s Facebook page describes it as a “forum to help catch bike thieves, recover stolen bikes and give advice on securing your mount.” It is owned by John Robinson, owner of Johnny Velo Bikes at 4231 N. High St in Columbus.
Klinger said a few weeks have passed and he hasn’t heard anything. A few months later, he said, he was in class at Columbus State Community College when he received a Facebook message from a member of Bike Snoop.
“(The member) texted me and said,” Hey, I think I know where your bike is. I’m in Worthington right now, and I see a bike that looks exactly like yours that’s strapped to the front of a COTA bus, âKlinger said.
Klinger said he received a photo of the bike and immediately recognized it as his own because of its unique carbon fiber bottle holder on the frame.
Robinson was able to retrieve the bike with the help of the police, Klinger said.
âIt was such a great feeling to get it back,â he said. âI was super excited. I was really overwhelmed with joy and excitement.
One of hundreds of stolen bikes is Klinger’s Allez Sport specialist. Robinson said the Bike Snoop community has helped redeem itself since he formed the group in 2013 to tackle bike theft in central Ohio.
The group has grown steadily from the start with around 100 members in its first month; it had 2,191 members as of June 28.
Robinson said the community persisted in locating the stolen bikes, with a member having helped recover 18 bikes to date.
The group is public and open to everyone, however, Robinson said, he asks potential members if they live locally or if they own or work at a pawnshop.
âI try to keep it to be community based,â he said.
Many of the bikes brought to the group’s attention are eventually spotted by members at a pawnshop, second-hand store or online, Robinson said.
Robinson said the group operates under a set of rules that include not confronting thieves and strongly encouraging members to search for stolen bikes with police assistance. He said he also stresses that bullying and threatening or violent behavior is not tolerated, and members are urged to avoid speculation.
âSometimes people get turned down,â Robinson said.
For example, said Robinson, if a member spots several beautiful bikes for sale by a private online seller, that doesn’t mean they’re stolen, and members shouldn’t jump to conclusions.
Those who come to the group to help locate a stolen bike are asked to provide a photo and as much information as possible about the bike, including bike type, manufacturer and model, color and serial numbers.
Josh Basham of Clintonville, a member of Bike Snoop, said details are especially important because riders are a passionate community who know their bikes.
âThat’s why Bike Snoop is so powerful, I think, because he’s (made up of) real avid riders who probably have five or 10 bikes in their garage,â Basham said. “When they see a bicycle, they know what it is.”
Basham said he provided as many details as he could when he posted about his son Mason’s Kona Cinder Cone mountain bike, which was stolen in April after Mason drove it for working at a Wendy’s in Clintonville.
Basham said a member spotted the bike in the Short North three days later and was eventually recovered.
âIt was pretty exhilarating,â he said. “I can’t explain how good it was.”
While the group has had some success to date, Robinson said, it further bolsters the deterrent with the introduction of Bike Snoop stickers that feature a bright yellow background and the phrase “Steal that bike.” We will find you â, in black letters.
Robinson said the stickers are meant to be placed on bikes to let potential thieves know the owner is aware of Bike Snoop.
âMost of the bike thieves in the community know what Bike Snoop is,â said Robinson. “So I think if they know about Bike Snoop why not let them know that this person is following Bike Snoop?” “
The stickers are available for free at Robinson’s store, he said.
Worthington Division Police Officer Tammy Floyd said bicycle thefts often occur because they are not secure, whether in a public place or in a building with an unlocked or open door .
âMost bicycle thefts are due to an opportunity, and an opportunity usually arises because a bicycle is left unattended and unsecured,â she said. “(Securing the bike) would be first and foremost.”
Floyd said the first thing to do when a bicycle is stolen is to file a police report. Owners should also contact the police if they come across a stolen bicycle and someone else is driving it.
Although Klinger has said he doesn’t ride as much anymore, he still has his specialty Allez Sport. He also said he had invested in a better bike lock since the bike was stolen over a year ago.
âSince then I have my license and a car so I don’t drive it as much, but I always try to get out as much as possible,â he said. âAnd I still use it every now and then to go to work, but I’m a lot more careful and careful. I just hope nothing else happens to him.
For more information on Bike Snoop, visit facebook.com/groups/bikesnoop.