GTV, organ trailer and Goldmember recovery

I found Goldmember by following a very circuitous fresh snow tracks of my very newly stolen Greenspeed GTV trike with the organ trailer attached. The tracks led me 3 blocks away to 519 Bronson Avenue just north of Arlington Street (Ottawa, ON, Canada).

The story:

Tuesday, November 11th, 2003 (Remembrance Day)

On my way home from work at 21:30, after having stopped at the banking machine to do some business, I turned the corner onto the north end of our block and ran over a set of handlebar streamers in the middle of the road. I did a double-take, recognizing them as the ones I had just installed on Goldmember a couple of days before and verified they were indeed mine from an extra elastic I had added to them. I got home and as predicted, Goldmember was gone. I had not locked it since I didn't think anyone would actually try to steal it, being big, heavy, hard to ride, and quite distinctive. WRONG!

I put a call out, filed an email report with the police including as much of a description as possible with photos. Mark and Juergen came by about 23:00 and we did a scout of the neighbourhood to the north and to the west, but found nothing. We even talked to a couple of police officers on the beat and *they* even recognized the description of the bike.

Thursday, December 4th, 2003

The snow had stopped shortly after I left work in Bells Corners at 03:00 in the morning. I got home at 04:00. On my way into the driveway, I had noticed a pipe section at the end of our driveway. It appears to be a roller from a conveyor or loading ramp. As I got to the back of the house, I noticed the trike and the organ trailer both missing. The organ trailer hadn't been disconnected from the trike since the last time they were used. The trike had been locked with a Kryptonite Kryptolok U-lock looped through the ends of 2 bike security cables and through the back wheel and chainstays of the trike. One cable was securely looped through the foot of the oil tank and the other end was locked to our child trailer.

They had cut both cables. They left the child trailer behind. They then hobbled the trike and organ trailer combo (7 wheels, 200 pounds total) with the back wheel of the trike stalled (still locked), about 1/2 block up the street to 168 Cambridge Street North. At that point they cut the hitch bolt and disconnected the safety chain for the trailer.

They then walked the trike another 3/4 km, first 1.5 blocks north on Cambridge to Primrose, then west 3 blocks down Primrose to behind the north-west corner of the Dominican College Of Philosophy & Theology at 96 Empress Avenue. In that secluded and well-lit corner, they then cut the U-lock off with what looked like bolt cutters.

They then rode it about 4 km around Chinatown and Little Italy, as far south west as Preston and Gladstone, looping and retracing their tracks several times when the tracks finally stopped at the house at 519-521 Bronson Avenue. This house is only about 3 blocks from me.

They left a very followable trail in the snow. If they had ridden one or two blocks on a well used street, they probably would have lost me.

I walked up the driveway before I was certain the trike was there. There was a car in the driveway, plate number ABNC 460. I had to squeeze through between it an the front corner of the house. My eyes were still adjusting to the shadows so at first I wasn't aware there were a couple of people standing there. They were a couple of young guys (16-21) bundled up so I couldn't see their faces. One of them, without prompting, said "Hey, I just live here, man...". Neither one confronted me about why I was there. One of them rummaged around inside the passenger door side of a car further up the driveway that had no plates on it. They shuffled off as my eyes adjusted to the dark. They crossed the street, kept looking back furtively, then started running, ducking down what I discovered later to be an alley way blocked in all directions by medium height fences. I started poking around looking for the trike. I went in front of the second car where I saw, over the fence to the back yard, the trike back wheel peeking out from behind the back of the house on the other side of the yard. I openned the gate and entered the yard to investigate further. On closer inspection, Goldmember was locked up in the back yard right beside where the trike was sitting.

At that point, I should have gone to the telephone booth one store-front to the south on Bronson to telephone the police. I didn't know it was there and was a bit too scatterbrained to go looking for a telephone booth at that point.

I returned to my winter bike, which had been left unlocked this whole time out in front of the house. I got my winter bike lock and double-locked Goldmember to prevent it from going anywhere. I then lifted my trike out of the backyard, over the fence, over the unlicenced car and over the licenced car. I put my winter bike in the back seat of the trike and then rode straight to the police station. The trike was in first gear of 15 gear inches since it had frozen there. It was now 04:45.

Leaving the trike just outside the main door of the police station, I explained the situation to the front desk. I then said I was going back to 519 Bronson to wait for them. One female officer met me there shortly after 05:00. After about 10 minutes of getting some information from me, another cruiser joined us with a male officer. The two police officers then knocked on one or both of the doors at 519. A 45 year old man answered and the two officers went in. I remained outside. After about 10 minutes, the door openned and out came the man with a set of keys to unlock Goldmember. The man said he had found Goldmember abandonned just around the corner for several days and took it and locked it up. I went around and unlocked my lock on Goldmember. He could not get the other lock unlocked. About 10 minutes after that, out came the female officer, cuffing a 14-17 year old boy who had a warrant out against him on other charges (turned out to be B&E, 2002). The man went inside to find other keys that might fit the lock on Goldmember and to get a bucket of hot water to unfreeze the lock, if that was the problem. He also checked with the boy in handcuffs in the cruiser for information on bike lock keys for Goldmember. At about this point he started verbally threatening me in front of the police officer, saying that if he had found me in the back yard snooping about, he would have hurt me. The male police officer at that point called the man on that threat, advising him that this was a bad time to be threatening anybody. Goldmember was eventually unlocked. The female officer drove away, taking the cuffed boy with her.

I rode Goldmember home while the male officer remained behind. I returned on foot to retrieve the trike and my winter bike. I got home about 06:00.

I secured things superficially, then went back to trace my steps. I retrieved the trailer from up the block. I found no other parts. I was hoping to find the cut hitch bolt and the safety chain bolt and nut. I went back to the Dominican College and retrieved lock parts and broken rear mudguard bits. I thought of retracing the rest of the route for documentation purposes, but decided against it because I was quite tired by this point. I returned home and brought the trike, with only the rear seat removed, in through the back door and put it safely along the front wall of the office. Goldmember is now double-locked to the *underside* of the organ trailer, leaning up against the addition. *Update*: I found the hitch bolt and the safety chain bolt in the driveway where the trailer had been dumped. As suspected, the hitch bolt had been cut with the boltcutters and the safety chain bolt had been unscrewed and discarded. Things have relaxed a bit and the trailer just sits in the yard, sometimes locked. Goldmember is now locked to the oil tank.

I had already taken the trike back, so police had no hard evidence they had stolen it. The male officer claimed that the backyard was unlocked and anyone could have walked into it, so they didn't have "exclusive access" to link them certainly. This sounds like a bit of a stretch since they had exclusive access to that lock on Goldmember. The male officer claimed that there is insufficient evidence to have any charges stick on any of them on these two bike thefts.

I am sorely disappointed in the investigative initiative of this police force. I am astounded at my good fortune of the weather, my timing, and the thieves' stupidity.

May this be a lesson to me.

I am now using a St. Pierre QuadraChain on the trike here at home. This is one mean, heavy, lock. There is just about no information on the internet about them. They can be reached at: St. Pierre Manufacturing (makes the Quadra Chain), 317 East Mountain Street Worcester, Mass. 01506, 1-800-926-2342. I got mine at Unchained Independent Cycles in Ottawa. Since the Kryptonite defeat, I've been taking the Quadrachain with me. I've now upgraded my Kryptonite lock as well as getting all the existing ones replaced.

Fun with blue LEDs, ice and mini-mirrorballs:

(C) 2003, 2004 Richard Guy Briggs Email Web Page last updated by Richard Guy Briggs Sat May 6 00:18:11 EDT 2006