On a recent rainy weekday, Bellevue police volunteer Don Erickson climbs into his blue Ford Ranger pickup and heads out on a search for two bicycles abandoned in some bushes next to Highland Middle School.
The retired Boeing engineer has gone on many such missions over his 21 years as a police volunteer. Many of the bikes Erickson rescues are repaired and sent to African villages, according to the Bellevue Police Department’s Bellevue Beat Blog.
A Bellevue resident since 1960, Erickson has been retrieving abandoned bicycles and delivering them to the police evidence room over much of his time with the department.
“Bikes can be anywhere,” he said. “One time, we had one in the bottom of a canyon. I had to make a hook on the end of a rope and throw it down there to get it, just like fishing.”
The serial numbers of the bikes are checked against a database of stolen bikes, and then held for 30 days. If nobody claims them, the bikes are picked up by a charity called “the village bicycle project,” which repairs the bikes and sends them to Africa.
In just the past year, 45 bikes that Erickson picked up have been sent to villages in Ghana and Sierra Leone, where they are put to daily use by villagers.
“When they get a bike like that, it’s like getting a new Cadillac,” said Erickson, who designed jet foils and struts as an industrial engineer for Boeing for 34 years.
Erickson could only recall a couple of times that he was able to reunite a bike with its rightful owner.
“It’s sad that people don’t take the time to get the information off the bike so police can identify it,” he said.
His advice: “They need to get that information down, particularly the serial number. That way if the bike is stolen, police can contact you.”
On that recent rainy weekday, Erickson finds the two bikes he is looking for — a couple of black BMX-style bikes.
“These are really good bikes for doing tricks on,” he observes.
The Bellevue Police Department’s award-winning volunteer program provides a number of critical services to the police department and community. Volunteers staff community substations in the Crossroads and Factoria neighborhoods and provide disabled parking enforcement and other supporting functions. Individuals interested in volunteer opportunities with the police department can learn more by visiting the Bellevue Police Department’s website at https://police.bellevuewa.gov.