A community Facebook group in Toronto has taken policing into its own hands by trying to capture a bike thief who has been seen clad in a full suit trying to snatch up bicycles across the city.
Users of the private group Bunz Trading Zone, which was originally a place where people would trade things, have been posting comments when they see the suspect and have even included drawings and photographs of him.
“We help each other out,” said member Jessica Castillo, who has seen the group grow to over 50,000 people.
Castillo was working on Monday evening when she spotted a man along Queen Street West lurking around bicycles.
Castillo said the man came into her store asking what the best spray paint to cover a bike was.
She had a gut feeling about the guy and thought she recognized him from previous social media posts about a bike theft and a man wearing a similar outfit.
“I noticed him in this area scoping out locked bikes,” she said. “I recognized him from the group.”
He was wearing a shiny blue dress shirt, a black vest, a tie, black gloves and dress shoes. He was about five-foot-eight and had acne scarring on his face.
She went around to the back of the store near the staff room and found the man wheeling away her bike, trying to steal it.
“He was wearing a crazy getup – a suit, dress shoes and a tie,” Castillo said. “It was weird; definitely not something you would expect a bike theft to be wearing.”
She tried to grab a photo of him as he walked away and her friend decided to sketch an image of him. The image was posted to Bunz and the neighbourhood watch continued with multiple people sighting the man.
“Later that night, people noticed him from seeing that sketch and people were updating saying they saw him around,” she said.
The suited thief was spotted near Queen Street and Ossington Avenue, Queen Street and Victoria Street, and also in the Village and Annex neighbourhoods.
Castillo said she spoke to police after the incident and was in the process of filing a complaint.
“From what I have read and what people have said, you have to have your bike registered for police to do something,” Castillo said.
CityNews went to speak with Toronto Police 14 Division, where the alleged thefts happened, but were told police did not know of the man or alleged theft.
Toronto police constable Craig Brister said that the best way to find a stolen bike is to register it online.
“It is like any other crime, and we do investigate it,” he said. “We see a lot of bike thefts in the city.”
Brister said that Toronto has a very large and passionate cycling community, and if people have information about bike thefts they should call their local division and get police involved.
“If there is a situation where there is a person that the public has identified in a theft they need to bring it to police so we can investigate it,” Brister said.
Brister looked at the images of the suspect and said they were great images but that they need to be passed onto police so they can investigate.
But Castillo said that police don’t do much about stolen bikes. “It’s really hard if they are not there to see it – what can they really do?” she said.
Castillo spoke with police on Tuesday to file a report and was told they can’t and won’t do anything.
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