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Tables Turned On Bike Thieves: Minnesota Man Stings Colorado Crooks

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4)- Police at the University of Colorado in Boulder have long warned that bike theft is the number one crime on campus. In an average year, 700 bikes are stolen in Boulder according to police and investigators say the problem seems to be getting worse.

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(credit: CBS)

But when the father of a CU Boulder student learned his daughter's locked bike was stolen from campus last weekend, he turned into an amateur detective and his quick thinking led to the recovery of his daughter's bike, and the arrest of the man who was selling it.

"She was pretty upset her bike was stolen," said John, whose daughter is a sophomore at CU.

John, who asked his last name not be used, lives in a suburb of Minneapolis.

"While my wife was talking to her, I went on Craigslist for Denver," he said. "When I keyed in the brand, it was like the fifth bike listed."

He said he even recognized grease stains on the bike from pictures posted with the ad. Posing as a potential buyer, John began emailing the seller attempting to buy the stolen bike.

The seller eventually agreed to meet John at a Walmart parking lot in Denver. Physically unable to meet since he lives nearly 1,000 miles away, John contacted Denver police for help.

"Ultimately the DPD agreed if I got him to a spot, they would send a squad car over there. They were fantastic to work with," said John.

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(credit: CBS)

As he was emailing the seller on Tuesday to arrange the meetup, John was also talking to DPD dispatch.

"I was very surprised when I reached out. They have 8,000 other priorities but if you happen to have an officer available," he told police, "I've got one shot to get the bike back and for you to catch this guy."

Christine Downs, a spokesperson for the Denver Police Department, told CBS4, "The Denver Police Department is here to serve, even a father in Minnesota… you make the call and we'll be there."

At about 8:30 p.m, instead of John arriving to buy the bike, DPD Officer David Briggs was dispatched. He rolled up finding a white SUV with Daniel Kania, 26, in the driver's seat.

"Sitting next to the defendant's vehicle, officers observed a gray women's Specialized road bike. Further investigation revealed that the bike that was in the defendant's possession, was the stolen bike out of CU Boulder," according to a police report provided to CBS4.

"Well some good news," said John. "I screamed, 'No way, how did that work out?'", said John. "It was the most satisfying thing in a long time. It never works out that way."

Not as satisfying for Kania, who police say had Oxycodone pills in one pocket along with methamphetamine. Police wrote that there were other indications that Kania was involved in "the selling of illegal narcotics." Police arrested Kania on drug charges.

"It worked out," said John who called the affair "very exciting" and "satisfying."

Denver police plan to return the bike to John's daughter within the next couple of weeks.

"It was definitely quick thinking on the dad's part," said Downs. "And we're glad we were able to get the suspect and eventually get the bike back to his daughter."

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(credit: Craigslist)

Downs said what happened is a reminder on how to protect your bike from theft:

  • Use a 'U lock" which is sturdier than most cable locks which can be easily cut.
  • Park your bike in a well-lit, well-traveled area.
  • Have your bike registered with police
  • If possible, have your name and phone number engraved on the bike
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