Ifanyi Bell holds a bicycle that was reported stolen from an Oakland cyclist and recovered with the help of social media. Photo courtesy of Ifanyi Bell.

Still pining over that bicycle, cell phone or laptop that was stolen from you a few years back? Don’t fret – you still may be able to recover your property using the Internet.

Police and some theft victims have found that they can track and locate lost and stolen items through their Facebook and Twitter followers, and by searching websites like Craigslist. In July police in San Leandro reportedly said a homeowner went on Craigslist and worked with officers to find $6,650 of property stolen from her home. Earlier this month New York Times tech writer David Pogue recovered his iPhone after a social media campaign that inspired a live blog. Facebook users helped a woman in England find her stolen car in March. Even stolen golf carts and canoes have been recovered with the help of the Internet.

The recovery of stolen items online has also led some to launch websites specifically for that purpose. Screaming Stone says it can help find lost instruments online; StolenBicycleRegistry.com uses Twitter to find stolen bikes; and two reporters from Southern California are working on a project to use the Internet to locate looted antiquities. In May the San Francisco Police Department posted photos of 114 recovered stolen bicycles online, hoping to find the owners.

Jenny Oh, an interactive producer for KQED’s QUEST, used social media to recover her stolen bicycle in July in Oakland. Last week, she helped an Oakland cyclist track his stolen bike to Oregon. She says theft victims who hope to recover their items should start by filing a police report. Then…

Start spreading the word on your social networks, email cycling groups, see if you can get the attention of the local media, do whatever it takes to get everyone on high alert. Also scan craigslist and eBay to see if it pops up there. This online tool is pretty handy. Register it at stolenbikeregistry.com. Go to your local flea markets right away and see if it’s being sold there. And be sure not to feel guilty about it being stolen. IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.

Oh used Storify to chronicle the search for the bicycle that was eventually found in Oregon:

How Social Media Can Help Recover Stolen Property 13 August,2012

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