DOWNTOWN — A brazen thief used an angle grinder to try to cut through a bike lock in the middle of the Loop, even flashing a fake badge when security tried to send him away.
And the victim doesn’t think it’s the first time this thief has struck.
Will Press, whose more-than-$1,000 racing bike the would-be thief tried to nab, said the incident happened at 3 p.m. Feb. 15 outside his office in the 200 block of West Washington Street.
A video shows the thief — wearing a neon yellow jacket — walking up to a bike rack and bending over it. The man uses an angle grinder in the middle of the day, sending sparks flying.
The thief was only stopped because the building’s security went up to him and questioned him, Press said. The man tried to flash a security badge and told the security guard he’d been told to cut open the lock.
Security knew better, though, and the man walked away without getting Press’ bicycle.
“He tried to posture like he was supposed to be there,” Press said. “He was in a bright yellow jacket to be inconspicuous. … You could tell that it was very intentional to look like he was an official person.
“It really seems like he wasn’t concerned about being stopped or being caught.”
Police said they received a report of a man in a yellow jacket using an angle grinder to cut the U-lock off a bike. When security confronted the man, he claimed it was his bike and displayed a security badge but then walked away.
No one was in custody, police said.
Watch the video:
The building’s security was alert because another bike was stolen off the rack about six months ago, Press said.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the same person or group as last time,” Press said. “The Loop, in particular, is targeted because a lot of people bike to work. … If they know that these bikes are getting parked there 7, 8 in the morning … they know where higher-end bikes are parked and can pinpoint locations that they want to target.”
Press thinks the thief or thieves who went after his bike know “exactly what they were looking for” because the rack usually has two expensive bikes on it, he said.
When Press heard his bike had almost been taken, he looked to the Stolen Bike Registry to see if there had been any similar thefts. He found several that seemed to fit the bill in the Loop and in River North, noting those spots had seen bikes with U-locks stolen from public places outside businesses.
Press reached out to people from those thefts and received several stills of security footage that show a man who resembles the thief who went after his bike.
In one still from another bicycle theft on Jan. 1 in the Loop, the man is even wearing the same bright yellow jacket seen in the video where someone tried to steal Press’ bike.
Several stills provided to Press show a man or men wearing different combinations of bright-colored vests, hard hats and badges.
Press said the man’s getup and the loud, eye-catching angle grinder he uses to cut bike locks are probably working in his favor as they trick passerby into thinking he’s being too conspicuous or looks too official to be stealing a bike.
“I think that is something that it’s helpful for people to be on the lookout for,” Press said.
Press is worried the thief or thieves will continue targeting bikes in the Loop or that they might even be behind high-end bike shop burglaries that have cost store owners more than $150,000 in losses.
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