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Park Slope Bike Thief Leaving Notes Behind

And the police are very appreciative.

Losing something is bad, but when it's stolen it just feels like a personal assault. 

I know I shouldn’t have left my bike locked outside my building overnight, I know — but I was really tired. I live four floors up. It’s a heavy frame. I was going to use it first thing in the morning to pick up some fresh bread and fruit at the Green Market. You feel me? It was just for one night. Not even seven hours.

And yes, I Citi-locked the front wheel to the frame and the frame to the wrought iron fence that runs along the front entrance of my apartment building — a Landmark limestone just a block from Prospect Park. But whoever this thief was — man or woman — basically set up shop overnight and by morning had performed a successful double wheel-putation on my recently tuned up and perfectly functioning 15-speed mountain bike. 

I shouldn’t be shocked, I know that Park Slope is still — technically, New York — but with all the happy babies, Labrador Retrievers and MacLaren strollers, it’s just easy to get lulled into a false sense of Connecticut.

We are, after all, the land of Amy Sohn’s Prospect Park West, home to the progressive and acclaimed . Our community comes together via Park Slope Neighbors and Park Slope Parents. We have way over the national quota of artists, actors, writers, film directors, journalists. Our restaurants, coffee shops and bistros teem with hipsters. I am not one of them, obviously as I just used the “H” word, but you see what I’m saying.

I waited for Dixon’s Bike shop to open — 11 a.m. on Sundays — and hauled the lifeless carcass for 15 blocks, hoping for a miracle. The gentlemen at Dixon's bikes were extremely sympathetic and not happy with the sight of a bike they knew well. A bike they had fine tuned over the past couple of years.  

They gave me a low price on replacements — all things considered — but still, $250? I bought the bike used for $200. I was going to have to cough up money I didn’t have to pay more for a bike I didn’t really want. I should just start over. Get a new bike. One without a history.

I abandoned the frame at the shop and told them I would call with a decision in about an hour. It was either throw it out or man-up. I walked back home and when I got there was shocked to find a legal-sized hand-written note Scotch-taped to the spot where my bike was. It said, "Whoever owns the bike and two stolen wheels, I caught the guy and I have the bike and 2 wheels. Call 347-XXX-XXXX."

I walked around the block and saw more of these notes Scotch-taped to mailboxes and lampposts. I then passed by two other similarly disfigured 10-speeds, mangled, mutilated and chained to other posts. I wanted to be furious, but couldn’t help laugh at the nerve, the audacity and/or incredible stupidity of this person leaving their cell number. I could hear the conversation — 

Thief #1, “Just post a note saying, 'I caught the guy.'"

Thief #2, “That’ll work?”

Thief #1, “Damn straight, it’ll work — they want they’re s@*t back, right?”

And so the plan was hatched.

I ripped the notes off the lampposts and mailboxes and headed for the NYPD's 78th precinct, hoping to catch a thief. A cherub-cheeked, burly, made-for-TV police officer had his eyebrows somewhere over his head when he actually read the note himself — he couldn’t believe, as was the general consensus at the station, that anyone could be that brazenly idiotic. I was encouraged to file a report but disappointed when a sting operation didn’t take place on the spot.

It appeared the category of the crime was “Petit Larceny,” which didn’t rank high on the 78th’s list of priorities — I hadn’t checked the local news but I’m guessing things that aren't  — trump wheel-ectomies.  

When I got home, I called Dixon’s and told them "yes." Go ahead. Like Dorothy and the Tin Man did for Scarecrow after the Wicked Witch sent her flying monkeys to tear him to pieces — I felt an obligation to make things whole again.

But a word of caution to Mr. or Ms. 347: My bike won't be out on the street any time soon and, more importantly, the police are very interested in knowing more about "the guy" you caught. If you don't get in touch with them, don't worry — I gave them your number.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Rick July 17, 2012 at 05:00 PM
NYPD may be too busy to do the work but you can help your cause. Try calling mobile phone companies and giving them that number, They will not tell you who it belongs to but will be able to tell you if it is their phone. You will likely be able to find out when and where it was purchased. Even if it is a throw away phone, you may be able to get info regarding time, location and purchase date of the phone. The police would be able to use the surveillance video and/or subpoeana name registered to phone. If they are brazen enough to try and get you to contact them, they may have even used their own phone.
james July 18, 2012 at 03:27 AM
What a terrific story! Many thanls.
Rudy July 18, 2012 at 11:51 AM
Wow!!!! This would make a great TV script Rudy
John Romano July 18, 2012 at 12:31 PM
I know my reading comprehension is not the best, but did the note not say "...I caught the guy and have the bike and two wheels...". Your assumption that this is the thief may be incorrect. My bike was stolen out of my building a couple of years ago. I posted a Craigs List ad and a couple of days later a person called me to tell me they had my bike. I had offered a reward, but he did not want it. It seems that the thief tried to sell it the night he stole it in front of Southpaws on 5th. The buyer bought it for a few bucks and took it home. He waited for someone to put an ad or post a note in the neighborhood. There are some good people, even in Park Slope, surprisingly enough. You should call the number and get your wheels back. They went to the trouble, why accuse them?
ojonyc July 18, 2012 at 12:54 PM
Why list the phone as XXX-XXXX when it is clearly visible in the photos?
Zarda July 18, 2012 at 02:08 PM
It has become fairly obvious by now that gentrified nabes have become robbery targets, especially in the past year. The crime rate was recently estimated as having gone up by 200% in Park Slope. Our neighborhood (as mentioned many times before in these Patch comments) is being highlighted by real estate reps as 'safe and hip'. What is has become, is a haven for out-of-towners without NYC street smarts. I helped gentrify the Slope 30 years ago (born in Flatbush, lived in Manhattan), raised my children here and do not find the article amusing. We should be able to leave bikes chained to a rail but reality speaks in a different voice.
tr July 18, 2012 at 03:18 PM
I have always wondered what these theives do with all these wheels? How much can they possibly get for them?
Johanna Clearfield July 18, 2012 at 04:15 PM
I get your point but here's the thing. The note, itself, was xeroxed and read that they had "the bike" and "two wheels" -- Clearly on my own crime scene, only the wheels were un-hinged. He/she couldn't get the frame. So my guess is that this one note was xeroxed in the anticipation that they would be stealing bikes and wheels all over the neighborhood. One note was all they had time to write. Also, "I caught the guy" is highly suspiscious. How exactly would that play out? Can you imagine someone walking down the street in the wee hours (because this happened some time after midnight and before 6am) -- spotting a thief in the middle of the act -- and "catching" him/her? Who in their right mind would do that? Anyone you interrupt in the middle of stealing could easily have a knife or worse, a gun. Who would put themselves in harm's way to help someone get their bike back? The broadly worded note seemed to be a "one size fits all" message and the thief just went up and down the blocks stealing what they could and hoping someone would call. I don't smell good samaritan here, John, but there's always a 1% chance that I'm wrong. The police will be calling the number. I will certainly post a follow up if this turns out to be the case.
Johanna Clearfield July 18, 2012 at 04:16 PM
The editors at the Patch did not feel comfortable printing the number although the note was posted in clearly public view, so a photo is different. It shows what was posted in public. Public numbers are okay to print/ private are not.
Johanna Clearfield July 18, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Hey Zarda, I did not find my bike's wheels being stolen amusing but I had to laugh at the nerve of the thief leaving what had to be his/her cell phone and thinking they would manage to sell it back to the very people they stole from. That just struck me as over and above galling. I agree, we should live in a world where nobody steals anything. Absolutely.
Johanna Clearfield July 18, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Wheels are expensive and they sell them to bike shops. One wheel can be sold for as much as $200. Mine were $125 each -- with a discount -- given to me by my very good friends at Dixon's Bikes.
bkp July 19, 2012 at 06:37 PM
The bike in this illustration had been chained to a pole on my corner, abandoned, for close to two years.
tr July 19, 2012 at 06:42 PM
I didn't think a used wheel would be worth that much! I wonder if it is possible to police the bike shops? Clearly they are complicit in this crime.
John Barg July 20, 2012 at 09:42 PM
That's not the author's bike. I know that bike. It's been locked to that pole for years (8 or more I think) on a corner of 8th Avenue in Park Slope—I pass it every day. That bike was abandoned there years go. I was there I can not remember how long, perhaps close to year, and starting to show some rust. Now and then it would get knocked down by a car (while still locked to the pole) and people would pick it up and stand it up again. Finally, one of the wheels was run over or pushed in and was bent, so it fell down more often, and the wheels got bent more and more because it was on the ground more often. Finally the wheels were so bent, they had to be removed since it became a danger to those parking. Why's the author fabricating this whole story?
bkp July 21, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Why? Because as anyone who lives on her block can tell you, she's absolutely bats**t (or more accurately, pigeons**t) crazy.
Johanna Clearfield July 21, 2012 at 01:53 AM
The fellow who interrupted the bike thief didn't know that and thought that the wheels were stolen from that bike. You are right. He didn't know that. I told him. The wheels were stolen from my bike and also another bike (the whole thing) was stolen -- he has both.
Johanna Clearfield July 21, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Right. That bike in the photo has been chained there for a long time. The vigilante thought that particular bike was part of the thief's spree -- he didn't know that. The photo was only meant to show what a bike is like without its wheels - it was not my bike in the photo. The story is not at all - not in any way, shape or form, a fabrication. The police report was filed and the witness (Peter) saw the thief in action. The story was covered by CBS News last night. They ran the story. They fact checked. all true.
Johanna Clearfield July 21, 2012 at 02:08 AM
Re: whoever is "bkp" the anonymous attacks posted below. This is my only comment: I am a licensed wildlife rehabilitator through the Dept. of Environmental Conservation and work as a volunteer for The Wild Bird Fund --- http://www.wildbirdfund.com -- All city birds are taken in and cared for -- including sparrows, starlings, robins, hawks and yes, pigeons. Pigeons are horribly treated in the city - they have no true source of food as they are seed-eaters brought here in the early 1600's and 1700's from Europe. They are poisoned by scavenging for food and end up dying of diseases from human garbage. They are doves and extremely intelligent birds that have been manipulated by racing pigeon fanatics and bred for racing and then thrown out onto the street. There are many books with details about the horrible mistreatment of city birds. Not everyone hates urban wildlife - not everyone hates pigeons -- and it is not a sign of being "crazy" to care for them. Contact anyone at the wild bird fund and ask them why they are now conducting exams, rescue and rehabilitation for pigeons & many other urban critters who suffer horribly in the city - and maybe they can give you more information.
John Barg July 21, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Wondering what the real deal was here. I called the number in the photo. First off, publishing the photo with the number was not cool—this poor guy is getting harassing calls now. I my call was not harass the guy, but to find out what the heck was going on–here's his story: Late one night this guy—well call him Mr. G (as in Good Samaritan)—was walking home (Mr. G has lived in Park Slope his entire life, he was born in the Slope) and spots a guy taking the tires off a bike. Mr. G, who's not a young guy, scares off the thief, who dropped two stolen wheels as he made his escape on another bike (stolen? we will know). OK, so now Mr. G is left standing there with these two wheels, he asked someone going into the building on that corner to call the cops for him (older guy remember, so no cell phone)—Mr. G stands there waiting for the cops, but no cops, he figures the lady never called them for him, so he goes home, taking the wheels for safe keeping, figuring I'll put up signs tomorrow. Next day or so (I didn't get the exact time frame), Mr. G shows up back that corner where he encountered the wheel thief and puts up signs all over, including the abandoned bike—Mr. G figured, I got two wheels, that bike has none, they must have come off that bike (seems logical, right?).
John Barg July 21, 2012 at 06:06 PM
So far we have a theft interrupted by a Good Samaritan—risking his own safety in the process—who then takes action to find the rightful owners. But, later Mr. G finds his signed removed, why? Mr. G fears the wheel thief did it, and now has his number—Mr. G is a little worried about this. Turns out Ms. Clearfield ripped them down. Why? Mr. G also showed the wheels to a buddy, turns out they are two rear wheels. So that's two people missing one wheel each. Mr. G would like nothing more than to: 1. Return the wheels to their rightful owners 2. Not be figured as a thief, when he was only doing the right thing the whole time.
John Barg July 21, 2012 at 06:07 PM
I applaud Mr.G, his bravery here, his good intentions, and his good will shown. So why has this become such a twisted story? Why would anyone jump to the crazy conclusion that the someone stole a wheel off a bike then put their number out there, fingering himself as the thief? That just doesn't happen. All I can say is, Mr. G is a stand up guy. Don't call the number to bug the guy. If you know someone who had a rear bike wheel stolen in Park Slope, then Mr. G might have one and would love to return it. Also, a few other notes: 1) Ms. Clearfield never takes her bike up to her apartment—trust me, I have first hand knowledge of this. 2) Ms. Clearfield seems have a habit of having bikes and wheels stolen—this is not the first time. I feel bad, but learn to chain your bike correctly. 3) Everyone, when you chain your bike, you need to chain the wheels too—otherwise they will be stolen.
John Barg July 21, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Johanna asked, "can you imagine someone walking down the street in the wee hours (because this happened some time after midnight and before 6am) -- spotting a thief in the middle of the act -- and "catching" him/her? Who in their right mind would do that? Anyone you interrupt in the middle of stealing could easily have a knife or worse, a gun. Who would put themselves in harm's way to help someone get their bike back?" Funny thing is, I called Mr. 347, that's actually pretty much exactly how it played out. Stop making the good guy out as a thief, face it Johanna, you got the whole story wrong. BTW, You mentioned you spotted ",two other similarly disfigured 10-speeds, mangled," I'd bet those are the bikes that belong to the wheels Mr. 347 rescued, and not yours. The wheels Mr. 347 has turned out to be two rear wheels. Lastly, Mr. 347 stopped the thief on 8th Ave, you don't live on 8th Ave. so Mr. 347's signs could not have been at "your crime scene". One more, if you chained your front wheel, how did that one get nabbed too? This story is really fishy.
John Barg July 21, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Hang on, so you came around to the that Mr. 347 was in fact the good guy? How about taking the photo off with his number? More importantly, how about taking this totally incorrect story down that fingers the good guy as a thief and post a correction and public apology to the guy?
Johanna Clearfield July 21, 2012 at 07:29 PM
I do not know who John Barg is and/or why he is so interested in what I do and where I go. It isvery worrying that he seems to knowthat I had a locked 10 speed stolen a few years ago. I have no idea how someone I don't know and have never been introduced to - would be tracking this. The 10 speed that was stolen was properly locked. Whoever stole it had professional tools. It is very difficult to lug a bike up and down many flights of stairs - especially when it is being used to run errands 5 or even 6 times a day. Jessica Schneider, the reporter from CBS news that came to the Slope to interview me - said that her investigation revealed that bikes are stolen in this neighborhood very frequently. I am not paticularly unique. It was also hard to believe that anyone stopped a theft in the middle of it being committed- That is why I wrote the followup blog, "67 Year Old Vigilante Apprehends Bike Thief." That blog was published yesterday and includes - in his own words- what actually happened. Yes, I was absolutely thrilled that the note came from a good samaritan and not a thief! Whoever Mr. Barg is - I will be on the look out for someone who I have never met tracking my every move.
John Barg July 22, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Oh man, here we go again. Johanna, isn't that how this whole post started—with you thinking the worst of someone? Haven't you learned anything from this? Here's the answer to your mystery, I live in the Slope and know people in your building. I found the story odd, so I talked the people I know. You don't need to watch your back, because I'm not concerned about you. I was concerned about the guy you who was obviously going the right thing getting called a thief. It's surprising more people didn't simply read the note left by Mr. 347 as you called him and saw you had the story wrong. I'm shocked the cops didn't take one look at the note and say, "hey lady, thieves don't leave notes like this," I actually find it hard to believe. So if you missed it, I'm not "tracking your every move." In fact, you should be nicer to your neighbors so I can *stop* hearing stories about you. Anyway, have a nice day.
Johanna Clearfield August 19, 2012 at 05:30 AM
The police thought that the note was written by someone who hoped to get money by selling back the things he stole. This has happened before. That is what they thought. It is extremely creepy that anyone is telling me what I do or where I go or where I live who I do not know and have never spoken with. As far as your suggestion that I be "nice to my neighbors" I would suggest that you do not listen to hear-say or rumors or gossip and make judgments about people (myself included) who you do not know and who are not there to defend themselves. What you know or do not know is highly questionable and appears to come from standing on the corner talking to people who want to spread rumors. There are lynch mobs who enjoy much the same thing. They run after people they don't know and string them up based on hear say. "And when at times the mob is swayed to carry praise or blame too far" Robert Frost. I do not know you "John Barg" We have never spoken, I am not interested in whatever rumors or gossip you have collected. If you introduce yourself to me, I will be happy to immediately dial 911. I do not speak to strangers.
Marimba76 November 10, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Actually, you verbally assault strangers on a fairly regular basis, and I can attest to this first-hand since you chastised me this morning for not keeping my dog "close enough to me" on her leash when she was clearly secured and we were both minding our own business and not a threat to you, your dog, and any other park dwellers in the vicinity in the LEAST. Your nasty behavior was completely uncalled for, but apparently legendary: http://www.brooklynbreeder.com/2011/07/03/brooklyns-100-most-embarrassing-people-of-all-time-that-i-can-think-of/ http://www.fuckedinparkslope.com/home/prospect-parks-crazy-dog-lady-loves-pigeons-cats-too.html and my condolences to your poor neighbors. I hope your life gets better and that you get some help, as you're obviously a very unhinged, deeply unhappy person.
Johanna Clearfield November 10, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Because people gossip and share their prejudiced beliefs -- they are free to say anything and attack anyone -- we still have a free society. None of the gossip you are referencing has any basis in facts but since you wanted to have this conversation publicly, not by private exchange, I will answer in kind. This morning as I was walking up the hill in the park, I held my dog's leather leash closely as she is normally fine with other dogs but occasionally will bark or be agitated -- it is not always easy to predict how dogs will react to each other so I keep her very close to me as I walk - as a consideration to others. People -- like yourself -- who use extender leashes (which are illegal in some states) and are not paying attention cause a problem for people like me who make a point of controlling the movements of our dogs. Your extender leash was almost completely out and I hoped, as you came closer, that you would pull your dog closer so we could pass, but you did not. It is just a considerate thing to do, I am sorry it was so inconvenient. When two people pass each other, and both have dogs, it is mutually considerate to keep your dog close to you so that both can pass safely. As far as pigeons go, I have already stated I am a licensed DEC rehabber. See http://www.wildbirdfund.com Not everyone hates birds, not everyone hates pigeons. I care for all animals, regardless of public opinion.
Marimba76 November 10, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Hogwash, Johanna. When I walk my dog, I take great care to be alert of my surroundings, the give of my extendor leash as it pertains to surrounding walkers--particularly in areas with heavy foot traffic such as the path along the meadow-- and would never extend it fully or anywhere close to its full length unless we are in a remote area of the park. The leash length was nowhere near full extension when I passed you, and while it's true that I did not have my dog in a choke hold, to say that she was an inconvenience to other passers-by and impeding them from safe passage is ridiculous. You were the only one on the path frothing at the mouth, and to that end, while you are certainly entitled to your opinion, you would do well to give the "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" adage a try sometime when doling out unsolicited advice. Is attacking me "mutually considerate?" I was so baffled by your vitriolic level of hostility that how can I not believe others who have said they have had very similar negative run-ins with you? Are we all just gossipy haters, the whole lot of us? Just a guess, but maybe when your treatment of your Park Slope neighbors matches the kindness you extend to animals, the gossip will stop.
Johanna Clearfield November 10, 2012 at 10:25 PM
I do not know you and I will not dignify whatever baseless accusations you are making. I saw the posts you referenced and both were rife with lies. In one, There is a photo of a message I left to stop someone who frequently leaves stale bread and whole bagels out of misguided kindness. In an effort to stop him/her - I tried to educate by explaining that birds (pigeons or soarrows - both) cannot eat through hard bread and so the bread would just get moldy and attract rats, etc. Instead, the post somehow conflated my effort to sto this with my being that individual. That is only one of the many lies you (and apparently your fellow liars) use to attack someone (me) you don't know. You were incredulous that I asked you to reel in your dog - outraged, even-- enough to add more vitriol. It was a request for normal consideration but you aren't able to deal with it so need to join with sone very perverse and anonymous "neighbors" who have all joined a hare club. as far as my treatment of animals over people - every single animal advocate on the planet gets hurled that particular insult and the answer is that one doesn't cancel out the other.

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