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With help of security video and biker community, stolen motorcycle found in hours

Prized motorcycle was left briefly unattended, and unlocked, in store parking lot
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Greg Sambroski was able to get his cherished motorcycle back after it was stolen from the Canadian Tire parking lot in View Royal. Dozens of members of the Lower Island Riders Club came together to track down the thief. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Greg Samborski zipped into Canadian Tire in View Royal on Monday to pick up a few items to put the finishing touches on a complete rebuild of his beloved motorcycle.

But when he returned about five minutes later, the 2012 TTM 500EXC — a European-made street-legal dirt bike — had ­vanished.

“At first, you think: ‘Did I park it somewhere else? Was it moved?’ And then I started to panic,” said Samborski.

“It started to creep in that this beautiful bike that I’d spent years rebuilding — and put all that love into it — was gone … stolen.”

Samborski rushed back into the store and told security guard Vaughn Scott about the theft.

Scott rushed him upstairs to a bank of security cameras and, sure enough, video showed a black truck pulling up to the bike and a passenger in a white T-shirt kick-starting the bike and ripping out of the parking lot with the truck close behind.

“I just can’t believe it … at this point, I’m thinking I’ll never see it again. It’s going to be chopped,” said 41-year-old Samborski, a professional ­videographer and photographer.

Samborski had a “key eliminator kit” on the motorcycle, which allows the bike to be started without an ignition and key.

He had planned to re-install the ignition after getting parts at Canadian Tire. Normally, he would have chained the bike, but his visit was only going to be a few minutes.

Police were called and a report was filled out — and Samborski snapped a few photos of the thief and suspect truck with his phone.

He didn’t realize it in the moment, but those photos and the power of social media would reunite him with his bike within a few hours.

“I had been posting on ­Facebook everything I’d been doing on the bike over the past 40 days, every small detail,” he said.

“So when I posted the photos of the theft, people just started responding ­immediately.”

Members of the Lower Island Riding Club patrolled View Royal, Saanich and Esquimalt for the motorcycle and truck.

Dozens of posts followed.

Within two hours of the theft, several people posted that they had seen the truck before and knew of an address where it was parked.

A check of the Esquimalt address on Google Street View showed the distinct truck with lifted suspension, big tires and flat deck parked outside.

Several people who had been following on social media kept watch on the vehicle while ­Victoria police were called.

Samborski said he arrived to find about a dozen people who were concerned about him and the theft.

He said VicPD officers talked to the owner of the truck for nearly an hour. Soon after, the officers called ­Samborski and told him to meet them at a property in View Royal to pick up his motorcycle.

It had been stashed there in a crumbling shed just a few minutes from where the theft had occurred.

VicPD spokesman Cam ­McIntyre confirmed officers were called to the area of ­Rothwell Street and Esquimalt Road on Monday just before 6 p.m. after reports of the stolen motorcycle on social media.

He said after an investigation, officers found the motorcycle “unoccupied and parked” in the 11-block of Admirals Road.

“The motorcycle was not damaged and the owner was very happy to see it returned,” said McIntyre.

He said in a statement that there were no arrests or charges; he did not explain why that was.

Samborski said it took four hours from the time of the theft to when he got his bike back. “That’s pretty amazing. I think when you’re part of the biking community, or any community, people can come together to help.”

Colin Williamson, a member of the Lower Island Riding Club, said there is a creed that you never leave a fellow biker stranded.

“When you read the Facebook posts in real time, it is an amazing story that if someone put in a movie, no one would believe it,” said Williamson. “The biker community came together.”

Samborski said he’s learned several lessons from his experience, including social-media tactics that can increase your chances of recovering stolen goods. “Post as soon as possible and include as many details as possible — date, time, make, model, colour, location, descriptions. And make sure the post is set to public, not limited to friends.”

He recommended using emojis at the top and short keywords in caps like HELP or THEFT, and asking everyone to share the post.

“Keep updating the initial post with new information, both in the comments and original post, so it can easily be found. This also seems to keep the momentum going,” said Samborski. “And thank everyone profusely.”

dkloster@timescolonist.com

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