Thanks to law, owner has to buy back stolen bike

NORTH PHILADELPHIA - August 20, 2010

Mary Harmer was collecting donations for the Salvation Army when a thief stole her $1600 Specialized Roubaix bike from the corner of 12th and Market streets.

"We were getting to go to the next location, turned around, and it was gone," Mary said.

Thinking the thief might try to sell the bike online, Mary scoured CraigsList and eBay.

"The picture came up and I knew instantly that it was mine and, luckily, it was at a store location so it was easier to track down," Mary said.

Mary called police and met them at Society Hill Music and Loan with her proof of ownership.

That's when she got a surprising lesson in Pennsylvania law governing pawn shops. Mary had to pay $253 to buy back her own stolen bike.

"I understand 100% that she is upset that she had to pay the $253, but the law is what it is and I had no idea that the bike was stolen," pawn shop owner Nat Leonard said.

Leonard says he cooperates with police by sending them daily reports of his transactions. The law protects pawn shop owners who unknowingly buy stolen property.

It's up to police to track down thieves, then the DA's office to prosecute them and try to get money back for the victims.

"It sort of seems common sense, you have your item and it was right there and it was taken from you, why do you have to pay for it, it doesn't make a lot of sense, but in this case, that's the way it's done," Philadelphia Police Lieutenant Frank Vanore said.

State Representative Vanessa Brown has proposed legislation in Harrisburg that would change the pawn shop laws so that theft victims would get their property back for free and it would be the pawn shop owners who would have to try and seek restitution from the criminals.

In the meantime, South Detectives are still trying to track down whomever stole Mary's bike.

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