Heroes retrieve stolen bike for boy
Damon O'Neil thought his treasured bike was gone forever when he strolled out of a Crown Street shop, slushie in hand, and saw it had been stolen.
But a joint effort by Wollongong police and Wollongong City Council CCTV operators managed to do the seemingly impossible, leaving the youngster full of praise.
Earlier this month, the 11-year-old Austinmer boy and brother Bryce, 18, had left their bikes chained to a wooden bench outside the 7-Eleven for no more than five minutes.
After they found Damon's bike had been taken, they immediately headed to Wollongong police station to report the theft.
Without much hope of seeing his bike again, Damon went home and waited for the phone to ring.
Determined to get Damon's bike back, Senior Constable Annalise Cheney got to work.
"My first response was to check the CCTV, which is always so useful to us, and then from that footage police were able to identify the offender," she said.
Sure enough, officers were able to locate the bike and, only slightly worse for wear, it was returned less than 16 hours after it disappeared.
"I was just relieved that everything worked the way it did," Damon said.
The youngster was so thrilled he typed up letters of thanks to the council and police.
"I would like to thank you for all the hard work you have put in to get my bike back and looking after me when I was devastated about having my bike stolen," he wrote.
"If it wasn't for the hard hours and dedication of your staff my bike would be long gone by now."
It may seem a small victory, but Damon's dad, Phil O'Neil, said it meant the world to his son.
He praised the city's CCTV network and described it as "an integral crime prevention and resolution system".
He said the good outcome warranted praise for the staff and technology.
"While my son's theft was of a minor nature it resulted in a swift outcome."