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Ballard man uses Apple AirTag to locate stolen bike, and take it back

A growing number of people are using the technology to find stolen property, prompting warnings from police about the dangers of confronting potential thieves.

SEATTLE — A Ballard man used an Apple AirTag tracker to locate his stolen bike, and he took it back.

He’s among a growing number of people using tracking technology to find their stolen property, prompting warnings from police about the dangers of confronting potential thieves.

“It's probably not the safest thing that I did but getting my bike back was absolutely a good feeling,” said Mike Taylor, whose $1,800 e-bike is his primary way of getting around.

Taylor locked his bike to his house one July night earlier this year, and in the morning, it was gone.

“Somebody had cut my lock, and it was an expensive lock, and just took off with it,” explained Taylor.

He had recently attached a $30 Apple AirTag to his bike, which told him it was just a few blocks away.

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Taylor said he called the police, waited a few hours, then followed his phone’s directions to the bike’s location.

“Sure enough, I saw my bike, there was a guy was sitting on a bench, just kind of sleepily laying on it with his feet up on the back of my bike," said Taylor. "I mean, I knew it was mine.”

Taylor hesitated and went for it.

“I got that little surge of adrenaline," he said. "I just hopped on my bike and just started riding it. The guy's feet slid off the back, and I looked behind me, and he's still sleeping on the bench."

“As this technology becomes less and less expensive, we're going to see it in more and more cases,” said Sgt. Tim Meyer, with the King County Sheriff’s Office.

He urges people to think twice before doing what Taylor did.

“What we want them to do is call us," said Meyer. "We want folks to be mindful of the fact that people who engage in property crimes, whether it's as simple as a stolen bike or stolen vehicles, may be engaged in other criminal activity."

Meyer said trying to take back your stolen property could quickly escalate into violence, plus, the person who has your item might not be the one who stole it.

Tile, a company that makes another property tracking device, told KING 5 in a statement, “If you suspect that an item has been stolen, or it appears to be in a location that may be unsafe, we encourage you to contact law enforcement and follow their direction when it comes to retrieving it."

Taylor said Seattle police eventually followed up with him.

“I said, ‘don’t even worry about it, I was able to get my bike back,’” he said.

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