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Bay Area Bicycle Theft Victims Band Together, Find Stolen Rides

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- Bicycle thefts have risen to epidemic levels in much of the Bay Area. Thieves don't discriminate, everything from top of the line road bikes to the most basic bicycles are stolen.

And nowhere seems to be safe, not even a private garage. With thefts on the rise, cyclists are banding together to get their rides back.

Many of the bicycles end up appearing for sale every week at local flea markets, apparently out of nowhere.

People who have had their bikes stolen have their suspicions, such as Tim from San Francisco. Last year someone stole his bike from outside his local grocery store.

"I said wow, that was quick!" said Tim. It was a major loss, because his Raleigh road bike is his main method of transportation. "It's just surprising to lock it in a secure bike rack in a well lit area and just all of a sudden it's gone," he said.

Michael Koch, also of San Francisco, had his two high-end Specialized bikes taken from his garage in one fell swoop. "The bikes were gone, the locks were gone. I would have never thought that bikes would be stolen right out of a garage in the Marina," he said.

Michael and Tim are not alone. Overall bicycle thefts in the nine-county Bay Area have doubled since 2009, according to a national stolen bicycle registry.

"It's become a huge problem," said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon. He recently busted a major stolen bicycle ring, recovering more than 100 stolen bikes. "This individual pled to possessing stolen property but we know the reality is that more than likely this was a fencing operation," he said.

Investigators believe most of the bikes were being sold at flea markets in Oakland. So, KPIX 5 decided to pay a visit. Sellers weren't too eager to talk, some hid their faces. Others said they get the bikes from other vendors in the flea market or other flea markets.

Everywhere our crew went, crowds gathered around to watch, definitely not surprised, even seemingly entertained. But for bike theft victims it's no joke.

Michael Koch's two stolen bikes were worth $11,000. Six months after the theft he is still posting them on Craigslist and other stolen bike websites every week, hoping someone will spot them.

"At this point I would be pleasantly surprised. I don't really have hope any more, it's more like keeping the word alive," he said.

For Tim, posting info about his stolen bicycle online paid off. "Someone replied and said 'Hey I saw this bike,'" he said. He recovered it, with the help of police, at the Laney Flea Market in Oakland

Police urge bicyclists to use a u-lock and to register their bike. If it's stolen, file a police report and post it as stolen. We've compiled some websites where you can post your bike and look for it online:
MTBR Classifieds
Racklove - Stolen Bicycle Finder

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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