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I live in a city on the east coast. I recently had my bike stolen. The frame was locked to a bike rack using a u-lock. They either picked or cut the u-lock.

My simple question is: where do thieves sell stolen bicycles?

More specific questions:

  • If they sell them on Craigslist, how far away are they likely to sell them? Surely not the same city, right?
  • Are they likely to wait a few months before selling them, in order to let the heat die down?
  • I imagine flea markets and bike swaps are dangerous places to sell bikes?
  • What are the top sites on the internet?

Any input is helpful!

  • Probably most are never fenced, but are ridden a bit and then abandoned. But it's a little different for more expensive bikes. – Daniel R Hicks May 11 '18 at 12:22
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    There was a back-and-forth trade between two university cities here in the UK (students turn up with a nice bike and a cheap lock, it gets stolen and taken to the next city for sale to another student in the same position). This was at the low end of professional theft. I don't know how common this is elsewhere. – Chris H May 11 '18 at 15:57
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I think that there are two kinds of bicycle thieves:

  1. Opportunistic
  2. Professional

An opportunistic bike thief is most likely and opportunistic petty criminal, getting their hands on whatever they can. This kind of thief is just looking for pennies on the value of the stolen items, and will likely try to sell them at a pawn shop or flea market. I suggest checking local pawn shops and the like with your bike receipt and serial number in hand. Do this ASAP

If your bike was expensive and your lock was cut, you may be dealing with a more professional thief. These folks will go through greater pains not to get caught by parting out the bike, or selling it in a different location. In this case, keep your eye on Craigslist in both your area and areas around you, on websites like letgo, or on local Facebook buy/sell groups.

Good luck!

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    Not a bike, but a friend of mine just had a 700$ drone stolen, and found it on letgo for sale across the street from where it was stolen/he lived. So not all criminals are smart about it. – Nate W May 10 '18 at 19:12
  • @NateW you have to put in some work to try and recover your items. Your friend did well. – Criggie May 10 '18 at 22:56
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    @Criggie They actually did a news article on it, and the police suggested people not do it like he did haha he went and bought it with movie prop money and phoned the police before hand. The guy ended up getting arrested for a probation violation but they are linking him with several burglaries as well. My friend got lucky. – Nate W May 10 '18 at 23:08
  • I would have thought buying with movie prop money exposes you to charges of counterfeiting, in the US - fines up to $250,000 and a maximum of 25 years in federal prison..... Imagine the conversation in prison "Whys he in -a guy stole his toy drone, hes doing 25 years, holy s..t, he must be bad a ass, did he mess the dude bad or just kill him... na, he bought the drone back with fake money. :) – mattnz May 11 '18 at 6:28
  • @mattnz Interesting legal question. The sale was invalid from the get-go, because the drone wasn't the rightful property of the seller. So, if the drone isn't being sold, is it illegal to exchange fake money for it? – David Richerby May 11 '18 at 10:22
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For future reference, I put two labels with name and phone number on the bike. One on the handlebar stem, for easy finding, and easy removal by thieves. One under the bottom bracket by the serial number, where the police will find it if it ever comes their way, and where thieves won't notice.

Quite common for bikes to be borrowed, then abandoned. Also had a few bikes secured/moved by well-meaning janitors or others. In both these cases a label might help the bike find its way home.

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    While your answer is somewhat useful, it does not answer the original question: "where are bikes sold?" – Grigory Rechistov May 11 '18 at 18:57
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    +1 for 'Henry Crun' There's somebody knocking at the door! – Argenti Apparatus May 11 '18 at 21:31
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    Welcome to SE - do have a read of the tour to learn how things are a bit different here. Your reply is good and correct, but lacks any answer to the question. This should be a comment, or perhaps ask a new question about "how to label a bike?" – Criggie May 12 '18 at 0:17
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Professional bike thieves go as far as selling your bikes overseas in places such as Africa Evidence from Montreal

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