Piecing Together Clues on Social Media: Community Helps Recover Stolen Bike

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DES MOINES, Iowa —  This year has a lot of people looking for new ways to stay busy.

“My boyfriend and I were kind of bored by the pandemic and we just wanted a different way to exercise outside, spend time together and socially distance with our friends,” said Cassandra Monroe.

So the couple set off to start a new cycling hobby.

“We went on our first bike ride that night,” said Monroe. “Twenty-seven hours later my bike was like, gone.”

Monroe lives in what she says is a very safe and secured apartment complex in the East Village. Her new bicycle was locked in a communal area and despite there being several other bikes in the building, hers was targeted.

“First I was crying because I was like upset. Then I was really angry, then I was like depressed and I got angry again. Then I got sad. It was quite the night,” exclaimed Monroe.

So the couple talked with a few of their neighbors. One of them had her bike stolen around the same time.

“Luckily, they had clues,” said Monroe. “So then it became like a clue hunt where we found the bolt cutters and the thieves left behind a bandana. Then we met another neighbor that actually saw them before the crime happened.”

And those clues helped them share information with the world.

“I basically posted whatever information I had on social media,” said Monroe.

The posts quickly took off. Being shared by groups and individuals.

“I had one user who posted an actual photo of the man, or one of the thieves, riding my bike at a local Walgreens and that is when it started taking off like wildfire,” said Monroe. “It was insane.”

Then local bike mechanic Scott Willcox stumbled across a post.

“You see a story on Facebook and it sparks your interest and you start checking it out,” said Willcox. Stolen bicycles are something he sees all too often.

“I was just trying to do my due diligence and share said post.  That post then got shared amongst my friends who shared it among their friends and Facebook did its part and now I just checked and it’s around almost 50,000 shares” exclaimed Willcox. “And that’s the type of community you like to see when you’re looking for something.”

From there, more clues started coming together.

“I was just like okay, it has to be found because it’s a bright orange bike and people are starting to know about it,” said Monroe.

Not only was Willcox’s post a hit, so was his social circle.

“So I have a friend of mine who has a friend of a friend who knew somebody who ended up going to high school with said alleged suspects in the theft,” shared Willcox. “(That person) reached out to alleged folks and after the photo was taken of one of the suspects at Walgreens he mentioned to the friend of the friend that he had stashed the bicycle.”

So the mechanic quickly turned into recovery mode.

“Not wanting to waste any time I was at the gas station when I read this on my phone. Slapped some money on the counter, took off.”

Fortunately, Willcox got there in time.

“It was nestled down into some weeds in a rock bed behind a church. If I had to guess I’d say someone was awfully panicked when they put it there,” said Willcox. “As soon as I found the bike did the you know above the head finish line post and said alright and immediately started sending some messages like hey, we got your bike.”

“I bolted out of bed and I was just like oh my god,” exclaimed Monroe. “Scott was able to deliver it to me less than a half-hour later and it was so bittersweet and it was so great to have it back.”

“They talk about finding a needle in a haystack, I sat right on it first try. It feels amazing to be able to reunite somebody with their bike,” said Willcox.

Despite being gone for several days, the bike was in pretty good shape.

“No real worse for the wear, a couple of scuffs here and there,” said Willcox. “I think you kind of expect to see stuff like that especially with somebody who’s in a hurry and not really taking good care of it but mechanically speaking it rode just fine.”

The bike is now being stored in a new place.

“Now we keep our bikes inside our personal apartment,” said Monroe. “But I say this to anyone. Even if you live in a really secure apartment building, if a thief wants to steal something they’re going to get in and steal it.”

“Unfortunately, bicycle theft is kind of a crime of opportunity,” said Willcox. “My dad used to tell me that a lock only keeps the honest guy from taking something.”

But for now, both Monroe and Willcox are celebrating this happy ending.

“As soon as I got back on it again and started riding I was so happy and I was smiling and laughing,” said Monroe.

“I know what it’s like to lose a bike, I had a bike stolen as a kid,” said Willcox. “And when somebody tells you they got it back I can’t imagine how excited she must have been to get it back.”

They’ll always remember this start to their mutual love of bikes.

“It has a story to tell and it’s beautiful and bright orange and perfect for me but it reminds me of how much I’ll fight to get anything back and it reminds me how really kind people are in the community,” said Monroe.

“That’s life,” says Willcox. “The way fate works out sometimes. You know, obviously she must be a wonderful person and she is because these types of things worked out for her so it’s just karma kinda doing its rounds of taking care of her.”

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