Last Monday, my Giant bicycle was stolen while I was in Muay Thai class. I left it in the bike parking lot on the west side of Sanlitun SOHO. Though it wasn’t locked to anything stationary (first mistake), it had two locks – one in the front, one in the back – and was left in full sight of several people in a parking lot I’d used before. In total, I was gone for just over an hour.
After I realized it was gone, I paced up and down the lot several times and asked a security guard if Sanlitun SOHO had any security cameras. "Yes, but they’re not pointed in this direction," he said. Really? Your security footage doesn’t extend to the parking lot, where theft is most likely? OK then.
In the end, I spoke to a police officer and filed a police report a few days later. And you know what? The process was pretty easy. Here’s what happened.
Calling the Police
At the bao an‘s suggestion, I called 110 (the police hotline) and spoke to the operator in Mandarin. If you’re not confident in your Chinese skills, keep the security guard nearby and hand them the phone.
The operator wasn’t sure the police officer on duty would find our precise location, so he told me to meet him at the large Sanlitun SOHO sign facing Gongti Beilu. At the same time, two friends were searching the compound for my bike and one stayed with me for support.
The police officer was polite if a bit repetitive. He asked me basic questions about the theft: where my bike was stolen, how it was locked, how long I was gone, what brand it was, and how much it was worth.
The officer asked me if I still had the bike fapiao, then told me to go to Sanlitun police station to file a police report. If I couldn’t go right away, I should visit on Tuesday morning or any time Thursday; the unit that received the initial complaint also had to be the one taking down the report, he explained. The officer told me to bring my bike fapiao and passport, then left after taking down my contact details.
At the Station
I went to the police station on Thursday afternoon. There was no wait; I just strolled up to the reception desk and said I wanted to file a police report (笔录, bilu). A few minutes later, I was shown into the back by a young police officer.
Filing a police report – especially where theft is concerned – is a largely standardized process. The police officer used a template, which varies depending on whether you’re a foreigner or a Chinese national. We sat down at a desk, where he asked me questions in Mandarin and typed my answers on the computer.
Don’t worry if your Chinese isn’t very good. All foreigners have the right to ask for an English interpreter at the police station. Just say: 我需要翻译 (wo xu yao fanyi) or "I need translation."
The interviewer went over the same ground as the first police officer, but was much more thorough and frequently stopped to clarify details – "You said you had two locks, one red and one black. Was the red one locked in the front or in the back? What kind of lock was it? What brand?" This might make some people nervous, but I found it reassuring.
When the officer was done with the report, he asked me for my English name, Chinese name, and birth date, then printed out the form for me to check. I had to initial every page, then sign and date the last page. I also had to sign a form in Chinese detailing my rights (no English version available).
I was surprised by the next step. The officer took out a rather vintage-looking metal tin containing a kind of creamy red pigment. "Put your index finger in it," he said. I proceeded to then fingerprint a hazy red mark over each initial, date, and signature.
The last step was also a bit weird. The police officer had me hand write a short statement in Chinese swearing my truthfulness. If you can’t write Chinese characters, I’m afraid you’ll have to try your best; the officer can write out the statement for you to copy.
That’s it! I was thanked for my time and shown to the front. The process took no more than 30 minutes from start to finish.
Look, I’m not an idiot. I realize that the chances of my seeing my beloved Giant again are vanishingly small. However, I feel better knowing that I did everything I could to bring those chances up even a bit.
On Friday, look out for my follow-up blog on how to avoid bike theft.
Photo: Gene Zhang (Flickr)