Cyclist finds stolen e-bike for sale at unmarked store in downtown Toronto
Images of the e-bike that was stolen, then later found at a store. (Courtesy of Jason)
Published Friday, October 6, 2023 4:04PM EDT
A Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) student is sharing his story after he was able to find his stolen e-bike at an unmarked store in downtown Toronto, less than one day after it first went missing.
Jason, who CTV News Toronto has agreed to identify only by his first name, said he had parked his electric bike at Dalhousie and Gould streets before attending a three-hour lecture at 3 p.m. on Sept. 18.
Usually Jason brings two locks with him, but since he was in a rush on his way out he only brought one – the weaker lock – to secure his bike. All that was left of Jason’s bike when he returned was a wheel.
“I was pretty disappointed and I was confused how my bike would be stolen in such a busy foot traffic area,” Jason said.
He said that he spoke with campus security about what happened and then went home and called Toronto police the following day when he couldn’t file a police report online.
“I gave them all the information on the bike, where it happened, what time it was, and then I just asked them to be honest on what the recovery rate of the bike is,” Jason said. “They told me it was pretty low, which is not surprising.”
After hearing that, Jason said he decided to take the matter in his own hands and conduct his own investigation.
“I knew there was literally no chance of getting my bike back, if I relied on the police, they just wouldn’t prioritize that,” Jason said. “The same night it happened I just scouted the area of where my bike would possibly be and then I just found this really sketchy bike shop with no name, with a bunch of bike parts inside.”
Thinking his e-bike could be there, at an unmarked store in the area of Sherbourne and Dundas streets, Jason said he went in the next day.
“I went back there pretending to be a customer to go inside and then I saw my bike, and that’s when I contacted police.”
Jason said he called 911, and after waiting 30 minutes, nobody arrived. So, he said he found a nearby officer and brought him into the store.
“I just pointed to my bike, ‘That is mine,’ I showed them proof and then they questioned the store owner on how they got the bike,” Jason explained. “(The employee) said someone brought it in the day before to sell it to him.”
According to Jason, police questioned the store owner further, saying he was in possession of stolen property and “can get in trouble for it.”
“I just got my bike back and I just left by the time I knew anything else happened,” Jason explained.
TPS spokesperson Const. Laura Brabant confirmed to CTV News Toronto a report was filed and that no arrests have been made at this time. While police said the report is still being investigated, they would not confirm if the investigation included the unmarked store.
While CTV News Toronto could identify the store on Google based on Jason’s photographs, the business is unlisted and no contact information could be found.
In a statement, Toronto police said that they do not recommend civilians conduct their own criminal investigations but noted that individuals should approach an officer on the street if they are in need of help, as Jason did.
“If officers are at a scene dealing with a more immediate issue or with something that could be potentially dangerous, they may ask you to contact 911 or recommend that you call our non-emergency line at 416-808-2222,” the statement reads.
BIKE THEFT IN TORONTO
According to the latest statistics from Toronto police, there have been 2,315 reported occurrences of bike theft so far this year.
But the true number of occurrences is likely much higher, an advocate for the cycling community says.
“Bike theft is a scourge that takes place in all urban cities around the world,” director of advocacy and public policy for Cycle Toronto, Alison Stewart, told CTV News Toronto.
“In Toronto, there are very few stats available partly because, like many things related to cycling and mobility, many collisions, thefts, etcetera, go unreported.”
With the surge of car thefts throughout the city, Stewart explained bicycles are “easy targets” for those looking to make money fast.
She said that situations like the one Jason described, where he resorted to conducting his own search, are unfortunately not that uncommon.
“What cyclists tend to do … we are a fairly tight community, and while many people may not take the time to report to police, but they definitely check with different groups across Facebook, social media, as well as visiting (sic) stores that may sell stolen bikes and or checking around the city where bike posts are used to harvest stolen bikes,” Stewart said.
One of the things Cycle Toronto is advocating for is for the city to take an ethical approach to address the lack of safe and secure parking spots for bicycles across the city, just as the City is planning with its parking strategy for vehicles, Stewart said.
“For the same reason that the city has provided very cheap on-street parking and on-street permanent parking for those that are garage orphans, we are looking to see some of our public space dedicated to helping people store their e-bikes, cargo bikes or bikes because that’s another barrier for people adopting biking in their everyday lives because they simply don’t have a safe and secure place to store it,” Stewart added.
As for Jason, he says he bought extra locks and put a tracker on his bike.
“I don’t want my bike ever stolen again.”