Friday, December 16, 2011

Stolen Fuji Bedford

Let me begin with the end.  I still have my Fuji Bedford, even though it was stolen.

In May 2008 it was taken off of the spare tire rack of my car.  My family and I were on our way home from Charlottesville Community Bikes where I was volunteering that day.  We wanted to stop and hang out on the downtown mall.  We lived close by, but it was still daylight, and I found a parking spot next to the police station.  I did have the thought to put my lock around the bike and the rack, but I didn't do it.  I thought it would be safe enough that it was parked in public next to the police station.  

A couple of hours later as we were hanging with friends by the community chalk board, I noticed a kid I knew and his friend again.  I had seen them that afternoon at the bike shop, and saw them again just as we arrived on the downtown mall.  The friend did not have a bike when I first saw them, but now he did.  He was in an upright riding position which I thought was a bit strange for a kid his age.  Usually they ride a hybrid or mountain bike, not one with the kind of bars that my Fuji Bedford 3 speed has.  I looked a little closer... IT WAS MY BIKE!!  I could make out 'Fuji' on the back of the saddle.  

I got nervous and started having a bunch of mixed feelings.  While trying to think about what exactly to do, I started walking toward them.  They were just casually making their way down the pedestrian mall.  But then they turned onto a street, and I knew that they would start riding soon.  So I started running, and yelled the kids' name who I knew.  His friend realized the bike he was on must be mine so he bolted.  I ran chasing them, but of course they got away.  In desperation I immediately called 911.  I felt like a little girl, or a big weeny whining about my bike being stolen to the operator, all out of breath, but I wanted my damn bike back!  

I made a report to a police officer who patrols the pedestrian mall on a bicycle.  He really could have cared less though about my bike.  He dutifully took the report, but I could tell he didn't have much hope I would get it back.  After he told me I would get a call in about a week or so to follow up on the incident he asked if I had any questions.  I thought for a moment, realizing I definitely would not find my bike after a week had passed, and asked, "Can't you just go to the kids house?"  He said, "Yeah, I guess so."  

Thankfully I did know the kids name, not the one who was on my bike, but his friend.  It turns out that I had taught him a few piano lessons at his school (a special school for kids with behavior issues that makes it hard for them to be in mainstream school).  I did that almost a year before this incident.  I couldn't remember his last name, but the school director helped me with that.  Then I called the police to give it to them.  They did indeed go to his house, and then he told them where his friend lived.  About 3 1/2 hours later, around 11:45pm, I received a call from the police that my bike was found and I could go pick it up.  I did search for it on my own after they took it.  A friend of mine took me in his car, and we drove around for about an hour through town looking in ditches etc... for it.  Its funny that the weather was very nice until my bike was stolen.  Then it began pouring rain relentlessly the whole time we were driving around.  

It was clear weather again when I went to the kid's house to get my bike.  His Dad was there and said he knows these kids bring back stolen bikes all the time.  But he just would throw them behind a nearby dumpster so they wouldn't get caught.  I wish he would tell them how it is wrong to steal!  The officer did not want me to press charges or go further.  He thought I should just be happy that I got my bike back without it being damaged.  Almost a year later I would find out that he lied to the kids' parents by saying that I had agreed not to do anything as long as I got my bike back.  I had never said anything like that to him.

In fact, I definitely was going to do something, and I did.  At this point, not only had these kids stolen my bike and gotten away with it, but they had even been caught by the police and would still have gotten away with it!  In my own conscience I did not want that to happen.  I went forward with pressing charges.  

Since they were under 18 (17 and 15), they had the choice to go to juvenile, or go through a restorative justice program.  They chose the restorative justice program.  They had to meet weekly with someone to talk through what they did, why they did it, how it was wrong, etc...  I did not get updated very well during this time though regarding what was happening.  I thought that maybe nothing had happened.  Until, almost a year later, I received a call to set up a meeting with the two boys and their parents.  

During the meeting the restorative justice people did a great job mediating, and keeping the focus on the actions of the boys.  I was able to tell the kids how what they did effected me, my feelings about it.  They told me how it happened.  They had to apologize in person, and also handed me handwritten apologies.  I learned that they had indeed been meeting very often for the past months with restorative justice, and they had to do some kind of community service after our meeting as well.  

I don't know if this consequence made a difference for them or not.  I hope it did.  At least they were not allowed to get away with stealing somebody else's bicycle.  I don't think the community at large puts as much importance on bike theft as they should.  It is about more than a bike.  What would be next for these kids?  If they are allowed to get away with this, what kind of limits would they start pushing ultimately?  I am happy that I went forward and did not give up on seeing some kind of consequence through with them.  The meeting that I was able to have with them, even though it was a year later, did provide closure all the way around, for them and for me.