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VENICE — Jessica Beeman, a Venice resident, knows she and her mountain bike belong together. After all, in an area where bikes disappear faster than Lance Armstrong’s credibility, how else could she account for the recovery of her stolen bike not once, but twice in recent years?

The most recent recovery came courtesy of the Santa Monica Police Department and officers said the incident highlights the importance of resident engagement when helping solve crimes.

According to SMPD, an officer on patrol noticed a man riding a bicycle along the Promenade while in possession of a second bike. The officer stopped the suspect and found a phone number etched into the bike the suspect was riding. It was Beeman’s number and she said the bike had been stolen from her garage six months earlier. The officer located a police report Beeman had filed and was able to return the bike to her.

She said she was depressed when the bike was stolen but elated at its return. “I have a regular beach cruiser,” she said. “This was my expensive mountain bike and I couldn’t afford to get another one so I was just like ‘there goes that hobby.’ But I couldn’t believe it when it was returned, it was amazing.”

Police spokesman Sgt. Rudy Camarena said Beeman took the necessary steps to help officers solve her case including engraving the bicycle and filing a report.

“We would like to remind the public to engrave their property and/or store the serial number so it is available and can be included in police reports,” he said. “These marking will allow law enforcement to trace the property back to its rightful owners in case of recovery. Although high quality locking mechanism for bicycles are a bit more expensive, they are also a wise investment in preventing thefts.”

Beeman said she knows the value of a good lock after failing to secure her bike during its first theft. She took the bike to Abbott Kinny and left it unlocked for what she thought would only be a few minutes. However, that was enough time for someone to ride away. She said she watched Craigslist for days following the theft and eventually saw the bike come up for sale. She arranged to meet the seller and then asked for a test ride. She rode the bike to a different location, secured it with her own lock and then told the seller she had reclaimed her property.

She used the event as motivation to participate in a local bicycle registration event.

“When bikes go missing in Venice you rarely see them again,” she said. “My neighborhood has a bike registering event every summer so I took my bike down and had them drill the phone number into the bottom.”

Bicycle thefts are a common crime in Santa Monica and Camarena said SMPD has taken specific steps to address the problem.

“From time to time the Santa Monica Police Department will deploy bait bicycles equipped with electronic tracking equipment,” he said. “These bicycles are strategically placed in the downtown area and in locations experiencing a high incidence of bicycle thefts. Prolific bicycle thieves and organized groups are responsible for an inordinate amount of bicycles thefts and an increase in property crimes within city limits. The use of technology has not only allowed us to recover and return property to their rightful owners but to arrest suspects, identify some of the fences in possession of the stolen property and pinpoint trends and patterns.”

He said officers recently used an undercover investigation to thwart a prolific theft operation. He said the thieves were taking public transportation into the city, stealing bikes and riding home. The suspects were making two or three trips per day, seven days a week. The investigation resulted in the recovery of dozens of bicycles, dismantled parts and several arrests.

Camarena said solving bike thefts does more than just recover property, it helps reduce traffic in the city.

“Experience has shown us that a typical victim who ride their bikes to work and use it to run errands, will revert back to driving and will delay replacing the stolen bicycles for months if not years,” he said. “Reducing and deterring these personal loses not only helps the police department drive crime rates down, but it’s a sound effort consistent with citywide sustainability goals in reducing the environmental footprint caused by driving.”

matt@www.smdp.com

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