Provo police set up sting to catch bike thieves, make several arrests

Published: Sunday, Nov. 4 2012 10:12 p.m. MST

Steve Adams, right, joins the other members of the new Provo River Bike Patrol. Provo City Police begin a new program Tuesday, May 8, 2012 that has citizens on bicycles riding the Provo river trail reporting suspicious activity.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

PROVO — Brandon Livingston uses his bike every day.

"I use it to get to work (and) school," he said. "I use it for recreational purposes like mountain biking."

In September, Livingston stopped at the DMV in Provo to ask a question. While he was inside, his bike was stolen.

"I reported it to the police and hoped they would find it," he said. "A week went by and nothing (happened), so I just accepted the fact that it was gone."

With more than 250 bicycles reported stolen in the past six months, Provo police have made catching the culprits a top priority. Recently, police set up an undercover sting operation to help combat the problem.

"The bikes are an easy target for the drug trade," Provo Police Sgt. Troy Beebe said. "They're able to pick the bikes up and turn around and get rid of them in exchange for meth (or) heroin to feed addiction."

Beebe runs the department's special enforcement team, which normally focuses on narcotic crimes. But after 255 reported stolen bikes in six months, he set up bike theft stings. Officers placed bicycles around town as bait, then watched and waited.

"They will scout and find high-end bikes and cut locks," Beebe said. "It's usually not a one-person job. There will be multiple people involved."

Police say the thieves show up all over town. BYU also is a big target. Approximately 100 bikes are stolen on campus every year, BYU Police Lt. Arnold Lemmon said.

"If you want just some bike transportation, go to Deseret Industries or somewhere and buy a $25 bike," Lemmon said. "If you want to ride a high-end bike here, I don't recommend it."

Police recommend that bike owners register their bikes with the city, write down the serial number and take a picture of the bike.

Police have recovered several bikes in recent weeks, but victims rarely fill out a stolen bike report with enough information to have their bike returned if found. Police also made several arrests in the sting operation.

Livingston ended up finding his bike on his own. He had made many modifications to his bike, making it easily recognizable.

A week ago, Livingston spotted a man riding his stolen bike. He chased him down and got his bike back.

"I just jumped out, and he was fairly scared because I'm a fairly big guy, 6-foot-8," Livingston said.

Email: rjeppesen@desnews.com

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