Bay Area Bike Vigilante Takes Law Into His Own Hands

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) _ With Bay Area police departments stretched thin, many property crimes go unsolved, including hundreds of stolen bicycles, but one man is on a mission to take bikes back from the bad guys and return them to their rightful owners.

KCBS’ Matt Bigler Reports:

Steve in Berkeley had his bikes stolen out of his garage a few months back. He filed a police report, but he also put up an ad on Craigslist asking if anyone had seen his bikes. Much to his surprise, he got a response.

”The email came in that said, ‘$300 and a fistfight later I’ve got your bike. Give me a call.’ So obviously I was concerned and suspicious,” said Steve.

Still, Steve did end up getting one of his bikes back thanks to a man who calls himself John Jameson. Jameson keeps his real name a secret because of his unusual hobby: trolling local flea markets looking for hot bikes that he finds on Craigslist.

”If they post them with a picture and I see them – I take them,” said Jameson.

The reclamation is not usually much trouble for the burley San Jose man who also practices martial arts. Jameson says flea markets have become black markets for bicycles.

”There’s a set of guys who buy stolen bikes to sell at flea markets. There are about seven different vendors who go to the Oakland Coliseum flea market right off of 66th and 880 on Tuesday morning and then turn around and re-sell them to the public,” said Jameson.

”We know that not only bicycles, but also other stolen property is being sold at flea markets and yard sales,” said Officer Jose Garcia with San Jose Police.

He said that officers do patrol flea markets looking for stolen goods, but if owners don’t document serial numbers there’s little they can do.

”Trying to prove that the person in possession of the property stole the item, or knew that it was stolen is very difficult,” said Garcia.

Jameson is advocating for a national registry for stolen bikes, but until then, Craigslist will have to do.

”The only way to know if that bike is stolen for sure is if somebody posts it,” he said.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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