Great write up. Thanks for telling both sides.
Had a few bikes stolen, and recovered:
Get a burglary report.
Finding the bike is on you. It's real work and takes motivation and patience.
Set up a meeting, call the cops on the way. Meet the thief somewhere safe, I used the entrance of grocery stores with friends waiting nearby.
Be polite and apologetic, tell the thief the truth, and tell them "you are in possession of stolen property". Stall till the cops come, tell them the thief is aware they are in possession of stolen property, show them the burglary report.
At that point it's up to you whether to press charges or not.
I went through this process 4 times, each time the thief was just a really dumb person, nothing at all like the nefarious villains our imaginations build up.