Vancouver police said Wednesday that thieves stole 16 bicycles promised to kids in need around Clark County on Tuesday morning — not hundreds of bikes as previously reported by Waste Connections.
The charity organizer assembles and distributes bicycles, as well as helmets, through its annual Scott Campbell Christmas Promise event.
Cyndi Holloway of Waste Connections told The Columbian on Tuesday that thieves broke into a trailer parked behind a Walmart and took about 200 of the 700 donated bikes as well as about half of the helmets being stored. The bicycles are disassembled for storage.
However, the Vancouver Police Department said in a Wednesday news release that property crime detectives have determined 16 bicycles were stolen. Together, the bikes are valued at about $838, the news release states.
“The original figures presented by sources outside the police department yesterday were considerably higher and not accurate,” police said in news release.
The estimate of stolen bicycles was “obviously high,” Holloway said in a phone interview Wednesday night, standing outside, taking donations that were still rolling in and explaining the situation to donors.
Vancouver Police Department spokeswoman Kim Kapp said a street sweeper in the area apparently interrupted the thieves in the act. She said investigators were working to retrieve store surveillance video.
It was unclear Wednesday night whether the police department was still working to find the thieves.
Waste Connections’ charity arm bought the disassembled bikes and helmets through Walmart. Fortunately, Holloway said Tuesday, Walmart told Waste Connections it will replace the stolen items.
Waste Connections partners with other nonprofits and service organizations around the county — including Vancouver Public Schools, the YWCA, the state Department of Social and Health Services, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office’s Santa’s Posse program and local churches — to dole out the bicycles.
“The hard part is that it’s a timeline thing,” Holloway said Tuesday. “We’re not sure if we’re going to have the bikes before Christmas.”
Now, it appears everyone who wanted a bicycle will get one. In a Facebook post Wednesday, Waste Connections said it will now build more bikes than initially planned, thanks to Walmart and community donations.
“Still in need of helmets,” the post says.
Holloway said Waste Connections was in possession of about 320 helmets.
“They did steal way more helmets than bikes,” she said.
Within 24 hours, donors handed over $9,000 in response to news of the stolen bikes. More people donated bicycles, and they continued doing so as of about 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“We’re overwhelmed by the support of the community, and we want to give back because of that generosity,” Holloway said.
Anyone who donated after hearing about the stolen bicycles can ask for their money back. For donors who would like their money to be used, Waste Connections plans to do just that. It will buy more bikes and give them to charities not on the original list of recipients.
The influx of support may result in more than 1,000 donated bicycles, Holloway said.