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Minneapolis woman experiences something very rare: getting her stolen bike back

Thousands of bikes are stolen in Minneapolis each year. Only a few hundred owners actually get them back.

Thousands of bikes are stolen in Minneapolis each year. Only a few hundred owners actually get them back. Getty Images

To say Heather Kampf loved her bike would be putting things mildly.

The professional runner depended on that little pink and black machine for cross-training, and for her commute to work at a running store in Northeast. She had such a “sentimental attachment” to it, she even gave it a name: Stella.

So when someone took Stella out of Kampf’s Minneapolis garage in August, she was crushed. She told WCCO that she gave herself a day to “cry over it.”

She took all the recommended steps – filing a police report, and placing a notice on the Twin Cities Stolen Bikes Facebook group. Then she moved on to an “acceptance phase.” She was certain she’d never see her bike again.

To understand the swiftness of Kampf’s resignation, you have to understand that getting a stolen bike back is basically a small-scale miracle – in the Twin Cities and beyond.

Bikes disappear constantly, but are seldom recovered. In April, the Star Tribune reported that bike theft had reached a five-year high in Minneapolis. Almost 4,300 bikes had disappeared since 2017. Between 2017 and 2018, only 346 were recovered by police, but “often” in much worse shape.

The Los Angeles Times put it best when it called bike theft in North America a “crime without consequence, so widespread that it is treated less as a problem and more like one of the costs of urban life.”

It’s understandable, to an extent. Police are often bogged down with more serious calls. All reports are logged, but not all are investigated, Minneapolis Police Department Spokesperson Darcy Horn said.

But many of the nation’s working poor depend on bikes for their livelihoods, and can’t afford to simply replace them if they’re stolen. Still, miracles sometimes do happen.

After Kampf posted on the stolen bike page, a fellow user instantly recognized a picture of Stella from a Facebook Marketplace ad, where someone was hocking her for $200.

She recruited her brother-in-law to message the seller and arrange a meeting at U.S. Bank Stadium. They even offered an extra $100  when the seller seemed to get cold feet. Then they hunkered down a few blocks away and called the police.

Today, Kampf has her bike back. The thieves popped one of the tires, but she told WCCO she’s just thrilled that Stella’s home. All it took was cunning, police presence, and dumb luck to get her there.

And there are countless other riders who will not be so fortunate.