Having one's bicycle stolen is a miserable affair, especially in light of the apparent near-zero chance of ever seeing it again.
But a sophisticated Tel Aviv police operation has reunited dozens of bikes with their incredulous owners.
Police placed 2,000 stolen bicycles on display in a central Tel Aviv warehouse, made available by the city municipality, and called on members of the public who had reported their bikes missing to come in and look for them.
"I didn't believe it until I saw the sign for the police display," said Ela Goveritch of Bat Yam. Goveritch was one of the approximately 90 people who recognized their stolen bicycles on Monday and had the good fortune to wheel them back home.
"I've had seven bikes stolen. I'm simply happy. I am grateful to these guys," she said, gesturing toward Ch.-Insp. Shlomo Perry, head of the Tel Aviv Police's lost and found office, and Supt. Ro'i Amihai, deputy commander of the Horev Police Unit, who were overseeing the operation.
"This time around I'm going to put three locks on it - two on each tire and one on the seat," said Goveritch. "I can't bring it up to my apartment on the third floor."
"The thefts of these bikes were not sporadic incidents," Amihai told The Jerusalem Post. "A complex network was behind this. It was made up of thieves, storage houses and buyers."
To nab the culprits, police implanted tracking devices in bicycles and left them around the city in the hope that they would be stolen. The thieves took the bait, and the police moved in on the bike theft network.
"It's fun to see people come out with their possessions," Perry said.
Still, many could not find their bicycles, while others had to find creative ways of dragging their damaged bikes homes.
"I found my bike, but the tires are flat and the breaks are jammed," said one man who did not wish to be named.
"We should have opened a tire repair shop," Perry quipped.
"Many members of the public were very skeptical and therefore did not arrive," added Amihai.
Another man, Avi, who reclaimed a bike, confessed that he was "not 100% sure this is my bike. Many parts have been changed. The repair will probably cost more than the bike itself."
Toward closing time, a long line formed outside, as Tel Avivian victims of bike theft realized it was their last chance to stroll through the warehouse containing thousands of bicycles.
"I wouldn't be able to recognize my bike if it was stolen," said one skeptic outside. "If someone stole my horses, that would be a different matter."
Tel Aviv residents who have lost possessions or been victims of theft should contact Perry at (03) 680-2135/6.