Officers make arrests in bike thefts
UH Police Capt. Brad Wigtil said three UHPD officers’ gumshoe tactics enabled the department to get to the bottom of a rash of bicycle thefts on campus and return the stolen bikes to their owners.
Within the past month Sgt. Leslie Gremillion, Lt. Derrick McClinton and police officer Paul Mauro visited more than 100 pawnshops in the greater Houston area, and arrested three suspects on Wednesday linked to the thefts after being tipped off by employees.
"They did the work and it paid off, and we had a major break in the case," Wigtil said.
Since Aug. 10 there were 23 reports of bike thefts on campus, with six reported cases in September and 10 in October.
"Throughout the year we will typically have a number of bikes stolen, but we started noticing that particular types of bikes were being stolen," Gremillion said.
The peak in bike thefts led Gremillion to conduct an extensive crime analysis on the cases of reported bike thefts.
"I pulled the individual reports so I could get in contact with the owners and get additional information from them concerning their bicycle, so I would know what to actually look for when I entered a pawnshop," she said.
The UH police officers said the suspects were stealing Specialized brand bikes – extremely lightweight two-wheelers made for racing. They found the specific bikes in Houston-area pawnshops and traced them back to three individuals.
"We dropped off hundreds of business cards at these places, and that’s what ultimately lead to these guys’ arrest," Mauro said.
The most expensive stolen bike taken from campus grounds was valued at $10,000, and the value of the second-most expensive bike was $4,500.
"This is a criminal enterprise," Mauro said. "They were going out, they were targeting specific bikes. They knew exactly what they were looking for."
Once arrested the three suspects admitted to only stealing bikes secured with cable locks, officers said.
"These guys told us if the people had nice locks on their bikes, like the U-shaped locks, they wouldn’t have touched them," McClinton said.
McClinton said they used a "wire cutter-like" tool to break the cable locks.
The suspects were targeting four areas in Houston for Specialized bikes, and one of the areas happened to be UH.
The suspects would price the bikes ahead of time and go to campus with specific intentions of stealing a particular bike, Mauro said.
"They knew they were stealing a $1,000 bike or better," he said.
The arrests of the three suspects yielded the recovery of nine bicycles, totaling a value of $17,600. With this recovery the police department was able to release all nine bicycles to UH student owners and clear a total of eight cases of reported bike thefts at UH.
The department also has three additional bikes, which they have not been able to track to an owner.
On Friday the officers recovered two more bikes associated with another suspect.
"We have another two bikes that we’ve recovered that are attributed to a fourth suspect, which, at this time, are not connected with the first three," Gremillion said.
With the additional bikes, police officials estimate the total recovery value to amount to more than $20,000.