‘Vigilante’ cyclists hunt for stolen bikes

Michael Johnson, leader of the S.L.V.S. bike group, rides his bicycle in Austin. (Kevin Schwaller)
Michael Johnson, leader of the S.L.V.S. bike group, rides his bicycle in Austin. (Kevin Schwaller)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A self-described vigilante group says its mission is to find stolen bicycles in Austin.

It’s Facebook group states: “Our Mission is to protect every cycle and cyclist from the grasps of the worse people on earth- BIKE THIEVES”

Michael Johnson calls himself president of the Sith Lord Vader Squadron — it’s a Star Wars reference.

“We consider ourselves a cycling organization,” said Johnson. “Last year we recovered 47 [bikes]. This year we recovered four.”

Johnson says the S.L.V.S. has more than 100 members that ride together in groups of 7 to ten.

He says they work with the bicycle owners to verify the serial numbers and other details. Victims of theft post some information the the group’s Facebook page.

Then, they ask for the bike back or tell the owner where it is.

“Most of them just give up,” said Johnson. “They say ‘I know. I’m sorry. Here you go.'”

He says, if that doesn’t work, they call the police.

Austin Police say, as long as this group is only helping to look for bikes, they are within the bounds of the law. If their activities extend to taking a bike, then they could get themselves in trouble for theft.

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