Vigilantes catch thief on video with bait bike

"I just don't like thieves."

This woman is suspected of stealing a "bait bike" in Longview (Screen grab from Andy Huffman Facebook post)
This woman is suspected of stealing a "bait bike" in Longview (Screen grab from Andy Huffman Facebook post)

KELSO, Wash. (KOIN) — A group of men in Cowlitz County have taken crime fighting into their own hands this week, and they say it’s deterring crime.

The men set out a bait bike at a Texaco station and watched as a woman hopped on the bike and took off with it.

They caught the whole thing on camera.

Andrew Huffman, who runs a Facebook page called Cowlitz County News uncensored, posted the video on May 23. It shows the woman taking the bike and then being followed through the streets. Then the men confronted her.

“I think it’s great,” Huffman said. “Everyone needs to be put on notice that they just can’t steal stuff anymore.”

Cameron and Tanner had the idea for the bait bike. (KOIN)
Cameron and Tanner had the idea for the bait bike. (KOIN)

The idea is the brain-child of Cameron and his friend Tanner. Their bike baiting activities are listed on a Longview Crime Stoppers Facebook page.

“I just don’t like thieves,” Cameron said. “I really don’t, at all.”

“Some people like to say it’s their bike, they are just picking it up for a friend — they have all kinds of excuses,” Cameron said.

Curtis Hart joined in on one of 7 similar bike chases in recent weeks. He did his own guardian “sting” for sex offenders.

“I have a little experience with quote/unquote ‘vigilantism,’ which isn’t illegal in Washington state by the way,” Hart said. “It’s incumbent on every citizen to do what the police do, they are just simply people doing a job.”

Longview police say people have the right to defend themselves and their property.

“But any action you take can open you to personal liability or injury and there are dangers in that so it’s certainly not encouraged,” said Captain Deborah Johnson.

Cameron says one of the men they’ve confronted pulled a knife on them, but they subdued him until police made an arrest.

The men say they typically just warn thieves not to do it again if they give the bike back. They feel the presence of the bait bike is deterring theft and despite warnings, they are still motivated.

“I’m 18, I always thought since I was young I wanted to be a police officer,” Cameron said. “I want to help people. That’s what I’m here for, I believe.”

They plan to continue their mission for a little while longer, although they say they’re planning to get a new bike because the old one is becoming too recognizable as bait.

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