By Melissa Ford
Recently, I was scanning MomMail and read this entry:
My son’s new bike was stolen last night from OPRF as he attended a sports camp. He created this flyer (attached) and I hope it works.
When I opened the attachment, there was a picture of Michael’s shiny, brand new Schwinn Frontier, along with this message:
MISSING: At OPRF High school in Oak Park, my bike was stolen. If seen call the police immediately please. Thank You. If found a reward is given
Struck by this kid’s determination to recover his bike, I spoke with 14-year-old Michael, the owner of a Schwinn Frontier, and his mom, Mary, to get the details of the theft. As Mary remarked, “If Michael’s experience can help one other kid avoid getting his/her bike stolen, I’d like them to know about what happened.”
Seems Michael did all the right things.
After purchasing his black and orange, 21-speed, Schwinn Frontier bike from Barnard’s Schwinn, he registered it with the Oak Park Police Department. On Wednesday, June 22nd, Michael and his twin brother, Ryan, hopped on their bikes and pedaled to the high school for sports camp. As Michael said, “We parked our bikes where everyone in sports camp parks their bikes; there is even a security camera there. We were careful. I put my lock from the base of the bike, connected it to my brother’s bike, and then locked it into the bike rack - so it was extra secure.”
After camp, Michael returned to find his bike stolen.
Michael kept a cool head. He contacted his dad, who instructed Michael to call the Oak Park Police Non-Emergency phone number. An officer came to the high school and Michael filed a police report. The officer told Michael that kids come by the high school “shopping for bikes.” They use a pole, wrap it around the cable lock and snap it off. The officer recommended that Michael buy a high quality U Lock, making it more difficult for thieves to steal bikes. That night, his mom drove him home with his helmet and camp gear while his brother, Ryan, rode his own bike home.
Yesterday, Michael and his brother, Ryan, bought U Locks for their bikes.
Michael added, “Yesterday, I told my friend (he’s going to go to Fenwick), ‘You need to buy a U Lock for your bike.’ And, I want people to know that if you find my bike, please call the Oak Park Police Department’s Non-Emergency phone number at 708.386.2131.”
Now Michael’s waiting. . . for some word about his bike.
“What was this experience like?” I asked Michael. He explained, “I was so happy I got this new bike. I took care of it and it was still at the point if one scratch gets on your bike - you get all upset. It’s like new shoes, when you really care for them the first two weeks. At first I was confused, when my brother, Ryan said, ‘Where’s your bike?’ I was really upset. Then, you go into this mode - where you are so determined to find it. My mom keeps reminding me it wasn’t my fault and we were being extra careful.”
I followed up by talking with Sargent Dave Jacobson of the Oak Park Police Department, asking for tips on bike safety and suggestions for Michael. Here’s what he had to say:
“The best lock to buy is the U Lock because it’s the hardest to cut. Michael and his brother were right to go buy those locks; they are a bigger deterrent. It takes a chain saw to cut it. Bolt cutters can remove a chain or cable lock, getting the job done in five seconds. When securing your bike, make sure the U Lock is locked to the bike’s frame, tires, and the bike rack. Don’t attach the U Lock to the front tire. With quick release tires and if the bike is valuable - thieves don’t care - they’ll take your bike, leaving your front tire chained to the bike rack.”
There are two kinds of bike thefts: Bikes stolen (whether you lock it or not) or you are robbed; someone forcibly takes your bike from you.
Sargent Jacobson offered these tips:
- If you have a bike and you want to keep it: Get a good lock; use it each and every single time you go out.
- Register your bike with the Oak Park Police Department: If your bike gets stolen and we find it, then we can definitively prove ownership.
- Do not leave unlocked bikes outside in front of your house.
- Tips for riding your bike:
- Ride your bike in groups
- Don’t ride alone at night
- Don’t ride in unfamiliar areas and be aware of your surroundings.
- If you see a groups of kids that sets off your “Spidey Sense” (you have a vague sense that something feels wrong, dangerous or suspicious) - LISTEN TO IT! Turn around and go the other way. There is nothing wrong with that!
Moreover, Sargent Jacobson advised, “Don’t blame yourself or beat yourself up over the fact your bike was stolen. It has happened to many and you might even know someone that has had their bike stolen even if they did all the right things. The bottomline is that YOU ARE OKAY. That’s all anyone cares about - your parents, friends, neighbors, and the police.”
Again, if you have any information on Michael's bike, please contact the Oak Park Police.