If you ever find yourself riding a bicycle in Mexico City, or CDMX, do not let a friendly stranger borrow it. That stranger could just be a local bandit who has been stealing bikes from riders for more than a decade and a half.
The bandit is well-known in the city, and despite a 16 year reign of terror, local police are powerless to stop this man, citing a technicality that the bike thefts are not actually thefts, according to news daily 24 Horas.
The bandit, dressed as a cyclist, operates by approaching another rider, and striking up a conversation about the bike, often complimenting them on their neat bici. You may suspect that coercion or force follows the chat. In fact, it’s quite the contrary.
Saul Gomez, the founder of Nosotrxs, a citizens’ rights and advocacy group, explained how the bandit does his thing to 24 Horas, emphasis mine:
The modus operandi is very simple: he shows up, compliments the bike and says he left his own back a few blocks and proceeds to wrap you up in a pleasant exchange. Finally, he’ll ask to borrow the bicycle, on the basis of his earlier claim of leaving his own back those blocks, and he never comes back.
You can imagine how much it would suck to have a nice chat with a fellow cyclist who then asks to go for a spin on your bike, only to watch as they ride off into the street. Your smile slowly fading as the moments get longer and longer and you realize that you’ve been taken for a ride.
Man, that’s low. The news daily 24 Horas notes that the bandit is taking advantage of the trust between bicyclists in order to disarm his would-be victims.
The stolen bicycles will then pop up days later, for sale on social media or online marketplaces. The value of the stolen bikes ranges anywhere from $80,000 to $150,000 MXN, which is about $4,000 to $7,400 USD. The bandit even has preferred areas to go about his thieving, usually doing so in the city’s nicer regions like Roma, Condesa and Polanco, per 24 Horas.
When victims try to report the thefts, the police will turn them away saying that because they technically let him borrow the bike, they are unable (or unwilling) to pursue it any further. What the hell, CDMX PD? Is this the dibs system? Finders keepers? Come on!
The bandit even has a nickname, El Venezolano, according to the local news daily. I’m tempted to not even translate the nickname because it’s easy enough to surmise what it could be — The Venezuelan — but mostly because reading it aloud in its native language is a better fit for the tone. Kind of like, uh, El Diablo, or something just as ominous.