By Steven Elbow
December 10, 2014
Carlos Haeckel has a bike for nearly every weather condition Mother Nature can throw at him. So he was bummed when he went to the basement of his apartment building a couple of weeks ago and found that someone stole his new fat bike, a Trek Farley 8, which with all the add-ons cost him $3,800.
Haeckel reported the theft to the police on Thursday, and on Friday an officer called him to say it had been found -- sold at the eastside Pawn America.
"I was surprised at the turnaround," he said. "It feels good to have it back."
Haeckel was the beneficiary of a city ordinance, in place since February of 2012, that requires second-hand stores and pawn shops to document all sales, which Madison Police Department crime analyst Ellie Boebel said has turned up hundreds of stolen items. That does not usually include many stolen bikes, which often end up on Craigslist, or simply abandoned. But "tons" of cell phones, laptops, tablets, TVs and "also a fair amount of jewelry."
"A good chunk gets back to who it belongs to," she said.
But there's a golden rule: "Know what you own."
"I don't know that I would necessarily know all the serial numbers for all of my stuff, but if people do there's a greater chance of getting that stuff back," she said.
Here's how it works: When someone goes to a second-hand store or a pawn shop with an item, store personnel have to record a description of the item, the serial number if available, and take a picture of the item. They also have to photograph the seller, who must produce an ID and sign a certificate of ownership.
The store owner enters that information onto a website called Leads Online which caters exclusively to law enforcement. Last year alone the system turned up over 100 items, worth about $60,000. So far this year the number of items is up to 170.
So when police entered the serial number Haeckel gave them for the fat bike, there was an immediate hit. Police are now trying to track down the guy who sold it using the information he gave to Pawn America.
Boebel said that when something turns up stolen, the store owner is then listed as a victim in the case. But she said the owners usually chalk it up to the cost of doing business. In the case of Haeckel's stolen bike, he was told that cost was $200.
"Maybe this person didn't know know anything about bikes," he said.