ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. -- When Tatiana Morrell noticed two bikes missing from her garage, she did what anyone else would do -- she called local law enforcement.
When she couldn’t get immediate help, she and her husband took matters into their own hands. They filled out a stolen bike report, online, and then conducted a DIY (Do it Yourself) sting.
Morrell told Denver7 that she posted pictures the bikes online. Shortly afterward, a tipster called saying he’d spotted the bikes for sale on the OfferUp app.
“Sure enough, I went on OfferUp and could see both bikes being offered separately,” Morrell said. "They were also listed on the 'Let Go' app."
That’s when Morrell physically drove down to the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office and asked to speak to a deputy.
“I was told there wasn’t one available,” she said.
So, she created an online profile and reached out to one of the suspects expressing interest in the bikes.
“He asked me to meet him at a park near his house,” she said. “I didn’t feel comfortable with that, so I asked him to meet me at my gym near Arapahoe and South Parker Road.”
Morrell said she called 911 and told the operator that “this is happening.”
“I told them, ‘I want to go meet these guys, but I’m afraid I could get hurt. Could you have an officer there to make sure nothing happens?’ And they said, ‘we don’t recommend that you do that.’”
Morrell, her husband and a friend drove to the agreed location.
She said two young guys pulled up with the bikes.
“I said, ‘oh, the bikes are great,’” she said. “’I think this one might actually fit me. Can I take it for a test ride?’ He’s like, sure.”
She said the bike she rode still had her hairband around the handlebar.
While she and her husband were “testing” the bikes, a friend videotaped the meeting, then called 911.
“At that point, I said, ‘I’m not going to give you the bikes back,’” she said. “‘These are actually mine. Police will be here at any moment,’ and they ran.”
Sheriff’s Office Response
Arapahoe County Sheriff spokeswoman Julie Brooks said Ms. Morrell did fill out a report and did show up in the lobby.
“A deputy tried to explain to her that we couldn’t set up a sting, because we didn’t have the manpower,” she said. “Patrol officers shouldn’t be doing that.”
Brooks also said, “We never encourage people to take matters into their own hands, or meet with people who have already stolen from their house.”
She said they’re glad the couple got the bikes back without incident, “but there was no way to assist given the other priority calls.”
Morrell told Denver7 that it was frustrating.
“I understand that property theft is not a high priority,” she said. “I absolutely get that.”
But Morrell said she did all the work. All she wanted was for an officer to go and make an arrest.
Aurora Police Respond
Ironically, when the friend called 911 during the Morrell’s “test ride,” an Aurora police officer responded.
Because the sting took place at Arapahoe and South Parker Road, the 911 call went to Aurora’s dispatch center.
“The officer arrived 20 or 30 minutes after the thieves ran away,” she said. “He told me I should have called police before meeting with the suspects. I told him I called law enforcement five times, but couldn’t get any help.”
The Morrells admitted that they’d left their garage door open before their bicycles disappeared. Based on their own experience, they offered these words of advice for other homeowners
- * Keep garage doors closed
- * Make sure you have pictures of your bicycles/other property
- * Record serial numbers
- * Put pictures out on social media if your property is stolen
- * Check Craigslist and other apps to see if your property is being sold
Brooks said an investigator will follow up with the Morrells.