Abcarian: bike disappeared? Check your local warehouse

James Weitz has no problem approaching strangers; it’s what he does for a living.

He is a documentary filmmaker who is also hired by companies to find real people for their commercials. “I have to interview 3,000 people every year,” he told me.

So when he discovered that someone had broken into his Mar Vista garage in the early hours of a Friday morning and stole his three precious racing bikes – which were locked to a wooden table – he decided to try to get the bikes back by chatting with strangers approached.

“One of the motorcycles has tremendous sentimental value to me, and the thought of losing it and replacing it was too much,” he told me. “It got me through COVID.”

Opinion columnist

Robin Abcarian

The day after the theft, Weitz said he jumped into his two-door limo and drove to nearby homeless camps, where he often saw an odd number of bicycles. He struck.

But later that afternoon, on his way to Trader Joe’s, he spotted his unmistakably bright red Cannondale in a warehouse under Interstate 10 on South Centinela Avenue south of Pico Boulevard. He passed by.

One guy was sitting on a new looking couch next to the Cannondale, smoking.

“I said, ‘This is my bike,'” said Weitz. “And he said, ‘I just paid $ 100 for it.'”

Weitz happened to have a $ 100 bill in his pocket and handed it to him.

“Before the guy could change his mind,” he told me, “I took the bike to the car.”

And then he wondered if his other two motorcycles were there too.

“I said, ‘I’ll take another look at it.’ I picked up a tarpaulin and my bikes were there. I said, ‘I take my bikes and don’t pay for them.’ The guy started to apologize. “

Weitz ended up talking to some of the other residents of the camp, suspecting it was at least part of a semi-organized ring.

One of the residents, who referred to himself as a “mechanic,” cycled on a $ 4,000 carbon fiber bike estimated by Weitz. All in all, Weitz estimated, bikes worth about $ 15,000 may have been below the tariffs.


I called the Los Angeles Police Department’s media department on Monday morning to see how the LAPD is handling reports of bicycle theft and whether there is a dedicated bicycle theft department. (There isn’t.)

“If the victim decides to file a complaint, do we have someone to run out and see? No, ”said Sgt. Drake Madison. “Owners often don’t have a serial number, so it’s difficult to get the bike back.”

Weitz had tried to file a complaint with the police online. Since his garage was broken into, it was said that he had to report in person. But his local LAPD outpost in West Los Angeles doesn’t allow walk-ins due to COVID-19. So he went to the Pacific Division station on Culver Boulevard, but was told he had to file it in West LA

“My local senior officer said he would be in touch after I filed my police report,” said Weitz, “but I cannot file my police report so he cannot call.”

On Monday afternoon, Weitz and I took his steps back to see what we could find out about the relationship between some homeless camps and stolen bikes.

Our first stop was Grand View Boulevard in Mar Vista, north of Venice Boulevard. The warehouse in a parking lot behind a donut shop hadn’t been cleared of the city until that morning; the hundreds of bikes Weitz had seen the week before were gone. The woman he said offered to find his bike for a can of Four Loko also disappeared.

A man named Sean told us that if we were looking for bicycles we should go to the 405 underpass on Venice Boulevard and ask for a man I’ll call T.

We drove over and asked for T, who poked his head out of a tent.

“My bikes were stolen,” said Weitz. “Where would you go?”

“You would come here,” replied T.

“Then what do you do with them?” asked Weitz.

“I usually sell them,” said T. “I’m not trying to get rich. I’m just trying to make a living. “

“I have a bike to sell,” another man intervened. “It’s a Scott. I paid $ 1,200 for it. I’ll sell it for 8. “

When we said we weren’t interested, he said, “Check it out! I’m going down to 5! “

Everyone we spoke to was knowledgeable about expensive bikes, the different brands, what they’re made of, their specifics. And everyone told us that they don’t steal bicycles; they buy it and resell it.

Weitz went to a pile of silver cartridges scattered on the floor.

“What are they for?” he asked.

“BB guns,” replied T.

Maybe. Incidentally, the small cartridges contain CO2 and are often used to quickly inflate bicycle tires.

Our last stop was the warehouse under the Santa Monica Freeway, where Weitz had retrieved his bikes. It’s around the corner from ERBA, a closely guarded cannabis dispensary. The day Weitz paid to get his own bike back, someone had come from the pharmacy and picked him up.

“I said, ‘Sorry. Why are you filming me? ‘”

The man accused Weitz of buying stolen goods.

Weitz told him he was halfway right and rode his bikes home.

His favorite, the Cannondale, is now hung on a wall in his home. To keep the other two safe, he bought expensive German locks. And fortified his garage.


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