Los Angeles. Los Angeles detectives caught a 28-year-old man during a stolen-bike sting, near 9th Street and Hope Street last Friday afternoon, March 12, 2010.
"It seems there is no shortage of bike thieves downtown," said Lt. Paul Vernon, commanding officer of the Central Detective Division. "With overall crime down 18% from last year, we have more opportunity to recognize this trend in bicycle theft and then work the problem." Bicycle theft rose 60% downtown in 2009, and 19% across the city.
After a bicyclist reported his bike stolen two weeks ago from in front of the Ralphs supermarket on 9th Street, detectives decided to leave one of their own bicycles, unlocked against the bike rack. "The detectives eyed a potential suspect right away," said Lt. Vernon. "He was loitering around the coffee shop, talking to another man."
An undercover detective left the bike and walked away. The six-foot tall suspect walked up and rode it away, in plain view of dozens of coffee drinkers and pedestrians. "Most of the people had no idea what was happening as they saw the detectives pile out of a car and give chase," Lt. Vernon explained.
Chasing after the stolen bike, one quick detective was able to kick the wheel. "Apparently, the thief hit his front break too hard which brought the rear wheel over the front," Vernon added. "Obviously, he’s not a skilled rider."
Matthew Mark Mellish was not seriously injured from the crash. Detectives arrested him on a felony charge for committing a petty theft with a prior conviction. "To make that charge, this man had to have served at least one day in jail for another theft," Vernon explained. "This was no impulsive act. He’s a grown man with a drug habit that he wants to support on the backs of local bicyclists." Mellish’s bail was set at $20,000.
Friday’s sting was only one arrest in over half a dozen conducted by undercover detectives downtown this year to address robberies and bike thefts.
"The best thing about this arrest," Vernon added, "was all the onlookers high-fiving the detectives after the arrest. Being a bike thief downtown won’t win you any friends."
Detectives want to remind all bicyclists:
•Lock your bike with a quality lock, when left in public
•Limit the amount of time you leave your bike unattended, even if it’s locked
•Anchor your bike to a secure fixture
•Be aware of bike racks that may have been tampered with. Stickers placed over cut areas might be an indicator that the rack has been compromised
•Report any crime tips to Crimestoppers or your local police station