Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Craigslist Cowboys (and Cowgirls)

Victims Go Online to Bust Thieves
by Robert A. Waters

At about 11:00 p.m., Josh and Sarah Stratton were sound asleep in their Ham Lake, Massachusetts home when a masked intruder awoke them. Brandishing a handgun, he forced the couple to give him what cash they had on hand, which was $50.00. Before leaving, he also stole a camera and a MacBook computer.

After reporting the home invasion robbery to police, Sarah searched Craigslist to see if the robber would be dumb enough to list her items for sell. He was. She spotted her Nikon D2000 camera. She could tell it was hers because of the unique knots she’d tied on the strap and a lens cap with a missing logo.

Undercover detectives arranged to meet the seller at a nearby McDonald’s Restaurant. When he showed up, they arrested him. Searching his home and car, investigators found the MacBook stolen from the Strattons, as well as loot from other homes.

Because of the frightening home invasion, Josh and Sarah Stratton bought a security alarm system and weapons for protection. An article in the Star Tribune reported that “the mental image of the gun held over her head still scares [Sarah] Stratton and keeps her from sleeping in her bed...But now, armed with a security system and firearms of their own, Stratton and her husband have no plans to move...”

In Washington, D.C., Danny Lesh left his Cannonade hybrid bicycle on the porch of a friend. When he came back outside, the bike had disappeared.

Searching Craigslist, Lesh found his bicycle listed. He identified it because of a sticker on the frame that said “Bike Winter.”

Lesh arranged to meet with the seller to negotiate a price. He called police, but they seemed uninterested in helping him. So Lesh decided to go it alone.

While negotiating with the seller, he insisted on taking the bike for a test ride. Lesh rode away and kept going, re-stealing his stolen two-wheeler.

In an interview with NBC Washington, he said: “I knew I had to do it that day, or else I'd never see the bike again.” He stated that the thief called him, threatening to report him to the cops. But Lesh turned the tables by posting an ad on Craigslist warning others about the thief. “I was disgusted,” he said. “I couldn't help feeling bad for all the other people he'd stolen bikes from. I'm glad that, hopefully, his business is interrupted a little bit.”

A woman in Colorado made a similar decision. Kathryn Lucas rode her bicycle to a sports bar to watch a football game with friends. When she came outside, her black Trek 1.2 road bike was gone.

She filed a police report, then began searching for it on Craigslist. She found it and contacted the seller. After taking it for a test ride, Lucas told reporters “I started riding it and knew it was my bike, so I just kept riding it. I rode it to my car and then threw it in my car and then drove away.”

Lucas called police and informed them of the address of the thief. Investigators arrested Denzel O’Neal Crawford after he admitted he'd stolen the bicycle. He was arrested and charged with theft.

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