Austin, Texas 'vigilante' group patrols city to recover stolen bikes

Who you gonna call? The Sith Lord Vader Squadron!

by John Stevenson   February 6, 2014  

Michael Johnson of bike recovery group the Sith Lord Vader Squadron

Anyone who’s ever had a bike stolen has had fantasies - perhaps violent ones - of tracking down the thief. When you calm down, you realise that since staking a bike thief down next to a wasp’s nest and pouring sugar water on them would be, technically, illegal, all you really want is your bike back. But who you gonna call?

No, not Ghostbusters or Bikebusters; if you live in Texas cycling hotbed Austin, you call the Sith Lord Vader Squadron (SLVS), a 100-strong group of cycling vigilantes who patrol the streets of Austin looking out for stolen bikes.

On the group’s Facebook page, they say “Our Mission is to protect every cycle and cyclist from the grasps of the worse people on earth - BIKE THIEVES”.

Interviewed by KXAN News, the group’s president Michael Johnson said: “We consider ourselves a cycling organization. LLast year we recovered 47 [bikes]. This year we recovered four.”

Members ride in groups of seven to ten - there's clearly safety in numbers when you’re confronting lowlife bike thieves.

Armed with bike description and serial number, the SLVS locate stolen bikes, and then either ask for their return or let the real owner know where they are.

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

If that doesn’t work, they call the police.

The way it works is pretty simple, then. People whose bikes have been stolen post the details on the group’s open Facebook page, the bike theft recovery wall. SLVS members then keep a look out on their regular rides around Austin.

It’s so simple, we’re surprised it’s not happened here. Or has word just not reached us yet? Let us know.

15 user comments

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it is Texas

posted by jarredscycling [436 posts]
6th February 2014 - 17:41

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When was the last time you were able to right a wrong? Everybody winning here, except the thieves.

Shut up legs, you don't get a vote.

ridein's picture

posted by ridein [47 posts]
6th February 2014 - 18:38

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Austin, Texas, you say? LMFTFY:

"100-strong group of cycling vigilantes who patrol the streets of Austin looking out for stolen Grand Tour victories"

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posted by Doctor Fegg [128 posts]
6th February 2014 - 18:52

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I love Michael Johnson when he does athletics coverage for the BBC.
I didnt know he rode a bike too.
I like him even more now.

In other news, and without getting all Daily Mail, im sure if we tried this in this country someones human rights would be violated and the vigilantes would be rounded up and thrown under a tipper truck or something.
Or at least get a £60 fine

posted by Some Fella [707 posts]
6th February 2014 - 19:20

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it is Texas

I've been to various places in Texas and Austin is a lot more, how should I put it "sensible". It's often described as an island of democrats in a sea of republicians and I can sympathise with that.

posted by usedtobefaster [82 posts]
6th February 2014 - 20:11

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"sensible" ... "democrats"... ahem

posted by eurotrash [76 posts]
6th February 2014 - 20:37

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' an island of democrats in a sea of republicians '

Jebus. Can you imagine? A few people with open minds, surrounded by gun-toting swivel-eyed loons?

posted by andyp [783 posts]
6th February 2014 - 21:11

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Ditto - Austin is a lovely town. As is most of the rest of the place, actually. But be polite, as lots of folks are armed.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

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posted by KiwiMike [432 posts]
7th February 2014 - 10:04

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Austin is an utterly fantastic place, a lot of Texas is brilliant with amazing people as long as you don't act like a closed minded idiot.

The bit about being armed is pretty true, we went to a pool party at an Elk Lodge in Austin which was staffed by a bunch of retired folk and there was a sign that stated 'No concealed weapons'. I joked and said "I guess it's ok if you have your gun on show then" and got a very dead pan 'Yes. Just tuck your jacket behind your holster so everyone can see it'. At that point I looked round and saw lots of little old ladies sat their with dock off pistols on display and realised that every local in there was proudly carrying a gun. Scary at first but you get used to it pretty quickly.

posted by farrell [1247 posts]
7th February 2014 - 11:13

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andyp wrote:
' an island of democrats in a sea of republicians '

Jebus. Can you imagine? A few people with open minds, surrounded by gun-toting swivel-eyed loons?

Way to go! You yourself are not displaying an ignorant, stereotypical, closed-minded attitude? Ever been to Texas? Actually, have you ever been out of your hometown? I love that this can happen here, especially, as someone mentioned above, without this group having to worry about the thief's 'human rights'.

posted by pwake [264 posts]
7th February 2014 - 17:50

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'You yourself are not displaying an ignorant, stereotypical, closed-minded attitude?'
That appears to be a statement, rather than a question.

'Ever been to Texas? '
Many times, yes.

'Actually, have you ever been out of your hometown?'
As above.
HTH.

posted by andyp [783 posts]
7th February 2014 - 19:00

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Oh, there are many places like that in the USA. Bloomingtom, Indiana, for instance. Largest buddhist temple in the States right in the middle of the bible (thumping) belt.

Here, in Seattle, we live in about as European a city as you can get. We even have a 20 foot tall statue of Lenin. But 50 miles east are the Cascade mountains, where the Great Red Wasteland starts. With some exceptions (like Chicago, Austin, Boulder) it's pretty much like that through to New York.

posted by Gordy748 [66 posts]
7th February 2014 - 21:29

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andyp wrote:
'You yourself are not displaying an ignorant, stereotypical, closed-minded attitude?'
That appears to be a statement, rather than a question.

'Ever been to Texas? '
Many times, yes.

'Actually, have you ever been out of your hometown?'
As above.
HTH.


Please accept my apologies for my written English; I believed that the question mark at the end of that sentence denoted a question, and it does, but it only really works correctly when spoken with a rising intonation.
Really 'Ever been to Texas?' should have read 'Have you ever been to Texas?'. It was a stupid question because, of course, you have and I should have realised that from your informed comments.
I still really like the fact that these guys can do this and not worry about the felon's rights though.

posted by pwake [264 posts]
8th February 2014 - 3:34

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In the UK there are loads of websites like bikeregister.com, stolen-bikes.co.uk, and stolenbristolbikes.com which will let you know instantly about bike thefts in your area.

Some Fella wrote:
In other news, and without getting all Daily Mail...

Er, I think you just did.

In any case, if seven burly blokes asked you to hand over your bike, you'd do it, regardless of whether you were the rightful owner. Sounds like a lot of potential for mistaken identity, particularly as many bike theft victims haven't got a record of their serial number and often have no sure-fire way of identifying their bike.

posted by Mr Agreeable [124 posts]
8th February 2014 - 11:04

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'I still really like the fact that these guys can do this and not worry about the felon's rights though.'
Absolutely.

posted by andyp [783 posts]
8th February 2014 - 12:18

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