What Would You Do If You Met A Potential Bike Thief?
I shared this on Facebook, but wanted to record it here for future reference as well as for those who are not friends with me on my social network.
Let me set the stage first. Today was a rare snow day in north Texas, but I usually try to get out and get a little bit of exercise before going to work – no matter what the conditions are. It was still dark and the sidewalk was covered in snow, ice and sleet.
I was walking out of my neighborhood to do my morning loop around it’s perimeter. Because it was dark and cold, I was sporting my reflective vest and full head coverage (now that I think of it, I can see how the head covering might have looked suspicious). As I was walking I crossed paths with some guy. Folks usually ignore each other this early in the morning, but this guy begged me for my help. He had a bike, so – at first – I thought he might have had a flat or some other mechanical issue. Instead, he said he needed help rolling both of his bikes to the next corner. He then pointed to his other bike a few feet over. The snow was so thick, that he was having trouble rolling both bikes.
The absolute first thing I asked was, “why do you have two bikes?” Without missing a beat, his immediate response was that it belonged to his old roommate and that it was left for him. At this point, I’m still suspicious, but I also started reasoning in my head. If he were a bike thief, he picked a hell of a time to steal bikes. He didn’t seem nervous, so perhaps, I should take him at face value.
My other reluctance to help was that I was heading the other way and I was on a time limit. However, I didn’t want him to just get away, so I tried to test/bluff him. I said I would help him roll is bikes a few feet, but only if he let me take a picture of him and his bikes. Without hesitation, he said yes.
He called my bluff.
I took the pics and he actually posed for his. He even offered me a few bucks to buy my breakfast, for helping. I declined. Keeping my word, I helped this stranger roll one of his bikes a few feet. Before we got too far, I sensed that he was having second thoughts. He immediately, turned and said that he could get it from there. Worried that he might try to grab my camera, I agreed, handed him the second bike and then walked the other direction. My goal share the pics online once I finished my walk. I thought about calling 911, but figured it was horrible out and emergency services are probably busy, dealing with actual emergencies.
As I was continuing my walk, a man in a truck pulled over (down the street where I had come out of my neighborhood). He got out and started following me. He was in plain clothes, but he flashed me his badge, stating that he was a police officer.
He saw me with one of the bikes, so he immediately started questioning me about the other guy, the bikes, who I was, where I lived, why I was out there, etc. We walked back to his truck as I explained the situation. I also tried to explain who I was, my involvement with the local bike community, and how I had taken pics of the guy and his bikes. Still suspicious of me, he asked if he could take a pic of my drivers license (not being in his squad car, he had no way to run my ID). Not having anything to hide, I agreed. He then stated that he would ‘destroy’ the photo, once they were done.
During this time, another police officer, in a Richardson Police Department squad SUV, pulled the guy with the bikes over. He radioed over to the officer with me, to inquire about me. My officer replied with, “he’s just a concerned citizen.” I took a sigh of relief, since I feared that I could be considered an accomplice. This was something I didn’t think about, when I agreed to interact with this guy.
After that, I continued on my walk, where I was able to reflect on a few things. First, in a situation like this, even though I was suspicious and took precautions, it’s hard to judge a person’s true intentions. Because of my lack of better judgement, I actually assisted this guy for a few feet. Next, I am grateful that we have such a great system of police, who actually catch people in the act. Finally, all being said, I still cannot say with certainty, that this guy was actually stealing bikes. I’m am not a police officer, prosecutor or judge, and I do not have any proof that this person is an actual bike thief. All I have is speculation.
My wife says that I’m too trusting with people. Perhaps, in this situation, she is right.
I’m curious as to how other people would have reacted in this situation. What would you have done?
Update: Because I can’t say for certain if this guy was actually stealing bikes, I decided it was only fair to distort his face in the image.