When one Ohio State student thought his stolen bike was lost to him forever, a glimmer of hope appeared in the form of a Craigslist post.
Sean Jepsen, a third-year in finance, said his parents found the blue 1982 Schwinn Le Tour on Craigslist about a week ago after Jepsen’s older brother, who graduated from OSU with a degree in German in 2009, suggested they check the classified advertisement website to see if they could find the bike.
“My parents were Skyping my brother in Germany, and he had got his bike stolen over there, and he said to check Craigslist because people often steal them, then sell them on Craigslist,” Jepsen said.
Jepsen said his brother is in Germany looking for employment.
Jepsen’s bike was stolen at the beginning of September at the St. Thomas More Newman Center, located at 64 W. Lane Ave.
Shortly after that conversation, Jepsen said his mom, who originally bought the bike for Jepsen’s father in 1982 while the two were dating, checked Craigslist and found the bike listed as the fourth on the page.
“I can imagine there was a little uncertainty because the bike looked just like mine,” Jepsen said. “There was one picture (of the bike) and there was one discoloration on the bike that’s unique to my bike. They were shocked when they saw it, and I was too, because this happened over a month after I had gotten my bike stolen.”
Jepsen’s parents had previously documented the stolen bike’s serial number and took it with them to look at the bike, which was being sold for $170 out of the garage of private sellers in Grove City, Ohio.
“When they were looking at the bike, my dad asked (the sellers) if he could take it for a ride,” Jepsen said. “When he was out of sight, he checked the serial number and it matched.”
Jepsen’s parents left the bike with the sellers, who had bought it for $40 from a pawnshop in Columbus and fixed it up, before going to the police, he said.
“The police talked to the guys. One of them acted ignorant of the risks from buying things from pawnshops but the other one, who was the more talkative salesman, knew about the risks,” Jepsen said. “They were disappointed of course.”
The sellers gave the bike back to Jepsen’s parents for free, even though one of the men asked for compensation for the repairs done to the bike, Jepsen said.
“(The bike) got returned in nicer condition than when it was stolen, which is kind of funny,” Jepsen said.
Jepsen’s recovered bike will stay with his parents in Chillicothe, about an hour south of Columbus, for now. Jepsen said he doesn’t want to risk having it stolen again because of its sentimental value.
He has since gotten a cheaper bike and a better lock, he said.
University Police Deputy Chief Richard Morman said it is fairly common to find stolen bikes on Craigslist, in pawnshops and in used bike shops, but didn’t have statistics or exact numbers on the findings.
Morman said if students do find their stolen bikes for sale on Craigslist or in a pawnshop, they should contact the police like Jepsen’s parents did.
Pawnshops are required to register all of their products with the Columbus Division of Police by a city ordinance before selling them, Morman said.
Pawnshops are also required to keep information including sellers’ names, ages, addresses, driver’s license numbers, physical descriptions and the items’ sale prices by law, according to the Ohio Revised Code.
Morman said if a student were to find his or her stolen bike in a pawnshop, the student would be required by law to pay the pawnshop the amount the shop paid for the bike, even though it was stolen.
“Hypothetically, if your bike is stolen, and somebody pawns it and they get $50 from the pawnshop, in order to get that bike back, you’re going to have to pay $50,” Mormon said.
Lizzy McLennan, a third-year in early childhood education who recently had her bike stolen, said she does not plan to check Craigslist for her stolen bike.
“There are too many (bikes) to look through and I don’t have the time,” McLennan said. “Plus my insurance covered my bike and I found a cheaper, used one.”
McLennan said in general it’s a good idea for students who have had their bikes stolen to check Craigslist because it could help police recover their property.
To further help recover stolen bikes, Morman advises students to take a picture of their bikes’ serial numbers, to use a “U-lock” when securing their bikes and to register their bikes with OSU’s Bug Your Bike program, which helps law enforcement track stolen bikes through a radio frequency identification device.
Ronald Balser, director of Security and Protective Services at the Department of Public Safety, said 74 bikes have been registered with the program this year.
Jepsen said he attempted to register his new bike with Bug Your Bike about two weeks ago, but at the time, the program was out of the bug devices.