Mom tracks down stroller thief with the help of social media

Vancouver Courier

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Reunited: Amber Branny’s daughter celebrated the return of her stroller and her fourth birthday on the weekend.

When Amber Branny needed help finding her stolen stroller, she knew who to turn to — other mothers.

Branny, her husband and their two children live in a townhouse off Main Street. Usually she parks her $800 Mountain Buggy Duet stroller behind the building but on Friday night she was distracted with all the preparations for her oldest daughter’s fourth birthday party and left it near her front door, which is down a few steps from the sidewalk and around an L-shaped corner.

On Saturday, when the couple realized the stroller had been stolen, Branny posted a photo of it on several mom-related Facebook groups, including the Vancouver Baby and Toddler Swap. At 10:50 that night, her phone pinged. There was a message from one of the group’s mothers who had spotted the stolen baby stroller on the Granville strip.

Branny immediately jumped in her car to track it down.

While most people on the street were dressed up for a night on the town, she arrived in the heart of the city’s entertainment district in jeans and a comfie cardigan, determined to find the person who was apparently trying to hawk the stroller for $20.

“I just wanted it back,” she told the Courier.

Her foot patrol was fruitless. The thief had moved on.

Branny, however, was not willing to move on in defeat.

“Something came over me,” she said. “I thought, ‘Why don’t I drive by on Hastings? And lo and behold, there he was at Carrall and Hastings.”

She recognized her stroller instantly — as well as the incongruity of a man who appeared to be in his early thirties offering it for sale at his pop-up sidewalk sale.

But while she’d been willing to confront him in person if she’d found him on Granville Street, caution became the better part of valour and she texted a friend who advised her to call 911.

Sitting in her car and talking to the dispatcher on the phone, she saw the man starting to pack up shop.

“Can I go out and get it,” Branny asked the dispatcher, who reassured her that officers would momentarily be on the scene. When the officer arrived, the man started running but he was soon apprehended, handcuffed and arrested.

After tracking down her stolen stroller to the Downtown Eastside on Saturday night, Amber Branny was there when the police arrested the alleged thief. – Amber Branny

The man said that he hadn’t stolen it; instead, he said, he’d found it “in a ditch” near Main Street and East 15th Avenue — right where Branny and her family lives.

When Branny posted about her adventures on Facebook on Sunday, some people responded that the story is really about homelessness and how people survive. Branny, however, says that while the man appeared to have a problem with drugs, he was probably not homeless. But he was in possession of something that was hers and she deserved to get it back.

“I know that they’re ill and that they’re messed up with drug use,” she says but that doesn’t make it right to steal. Her response was based on the injustice of the theft and wanting the stroller back.

For Branny, the real lesson of this story is that “the power of the mommy community is amazing. Moms have a heart to help other moms.”

Courier columnist and CBC Radio personality Grant Lawrence wrote about his experience of getting his stroller stolen here.

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