Bikes are vanishing in Bristol and the East Bay

Police have leads into a rash of bike thefts across the East Bay, but no arrests to date

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 9/6/19

Though social media suggests there is a veritable epidemic of bike thefts across town, law enforcement can only confirm a small fraction of these cases. According to Bristol Police Chief Brian Burke, for July, August and September, the Bristol Police have so far documented nine cases of reported stolen bikes.

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Bikes are vanishing in Bristol and the East Bay

Police have leads into a rash of bike thefts across the East Bay, but no arrests to date

Posted

Editor’s note: While researching this story, reporter Christy Nadalin became a victim of bike theft; therefore this story has the unusual inclusion of first-person references.

Though social media suggests there is a veritable epidemic of bike thefts across town, law enforcement can only confirm a small fraction of these cases. According to Bristol Police Chief Brian Burke, for July, August and September, the Bristol Police have so far documented nine cases of reported stolen bikes.

“There’s a high likelihood that there are many more unreported thefts,” said Chief Burke. He agreed with the suggestion that people are reluctant to report bike thefts, due to the perception that the police may have “better” things to do, particularly when the value of the stolen bike is not high, and the victim feels they bear some responsibility for not locking it it up.

That would be a mistake.

“We highly advise reporting to police, so that we can see the trends,” said Chief Burke.

Unfortunately, while looking into this story, it became a case of experiential journalism, as one of this writer’s bikes was stolen over Labor Day weekend from my house in downtown Bristol. This was not the first time, but a few years had passed, and one of our bikes — not surprisingly, the one that went missing — was unsecured.

“This is a crime of opportunity,” said Chief Burke. “One person reported that his bike was left unlocked for 15 minutes when it was stolen.”

Last time my bike was stolen it appeared on Craigslist within a few days, and the police recovered it. The person who was offering it for sale at the time, a local repairman and hobbyist, said he had purchased it from a local teenager, and was unaware that it was stolen property. Having benefitted from his cooperation in the past, I knocked on his door to see if perhaps he could keep an eye out for any entrepreneurial individuals bearing bikes matching my bike’s description.

The gentlemen was helpful and said he would keep a look out, though he added that after the incident with my bike, and a couple of others around the same time period, he had become more careful about where he obtained his stock.

My next move (which admittedly should have been my first move) was to call the police. Patrolman Lefebvre responded, and within minutes, had taken my report. Do I have my bike back yet? No, but at least I contributed to the data set that the police are using to try to put a stop to this string of thefts. Barrington and Warren have also been experiencing a spike in bike thefts, and police in all three towns are working together. Here in Bristol, it is Detective Kearns who is on the case.

According to Chief Burke, they do have some leads they are following. “Details vary, there is nothing consistent, no pattern that jumps out,” he said. “A couple were found abandoned. The police have also taken possession of  8 abandoned bicycles, 5 from the area of the Town Beach."

It is entirely possible that some of those bicycles may have been stolen, but unreported to the police. Chief Burke advises anyone who has had a bike stolen in the last month or so to stop in and file a report retroactively.

“If you have a bike currently, take a picture and write down the serial number, take note of anything unique, any modifications,” he said.

“And secure it with a reliable lock, even if you are only leaving it for a short amount of time.”

Even if you feel that, in Bristol, residents “shouldn’t have to.” Apparently, they do.

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