It is the middle-of-the-night call that no business owner wants to get.
Matt Wurth, the owner of I Cycle Bike Shop at 2040 E. T.C. Jester Blvd., was roused from sleep at 2 a.m. Oct. 23 because the alarm at his bike store was going off. Wurth said he got there three minutes after the police and 10 minutes after two men had gotten away with 11 bicycles worth more than $20,000.
“They used a pry bar and bolt cutters to bust the lock,” Wurth said.
Houston Police Department spokesperson Kese Smith said that when police arrived, they found the door open and after a search, no one on the premises.
“The owner did provide security footage,” Smith said. “Two males entered, took (the) bikes and fled.”
Wurth said although the faces of the burglars was obscured on the video footage, the vehicle they were driving, a 1994 Chevy truck with a fiberglass wrap and pinstripe pattern, was more distinctive. He said he thinks the thieves might be the same men who had come by the shop earlier that week inquiring about the value of the various bikes the store carried.
“We’re looking through the footage,” Wurth said.
According to Wurth, the stolen bikes were distinctive and also identifiable by their serial numbers. He’s been looking at various local online sales sites but nothing has turned up yet.
“Maybe (they’ll) take them to another city,” he said.
The theft at I Cycle is part of an ongoing problem that Corporal Joe Bowden of the Harris County Precinct 1 Constable’s Office said he first became aware of when he was a contract deputy in the Heights and saw how many bikes were being stolen from people’s homes.
“It became a hobby of mine, tracking bikes,” Bowden said. “I work hand in hand with (HPD) in city limits.”
His skills were spotlighted last year in a KPRC story about Bowden recovering 64 stolen bikes at a Midtown house after some of the bikes had been advertised for sale.
Last spring, The Leader also highlighted Bowden in a story about the arrest of a man who was subsequently convicted of stealing two bicycles from the backyard of a residence in the 2000 block of Arlington Street. The man, Michael Derouselle, was suspected of similar thefts and burglaries in the Garden Oaks, Shepherd Park and Candlelight Park areas.
The staff at Blue Line Bike Lab, at 1504 Yale St., said Bowden helped them after the store was hit by thieves a little more than two months ago. In that case, intruders took 20 bikes valued at $30,000.
Blue Line Bike Lab manager Hunter Wendt said they had tracked some of the bikes to a garage. But by the time authorities got there, all the bikes were already gone.
Both I Cycle and Blue Line have implemented more stringent protections and security measures. But thefts elsewhere will likely continue, Bowden said.
“These are repeat offenders,” Bowden said. “A lot of the time these guys scope out the (store) before. (During the theft) they are covered from head to toe and driving a stolen or borrowed vehicle.”
Bowden also notes the use of bikes as currency in the drug trade, which is not just an issue in Houston. There are so many thefts in Portland, Oregon, that the city has a Police Bike Theft Task Force. Bike Theft Task Force Officer Dave Sanders told bikeportland.org that bicycles are good “street currency” because they’re ubiquitous as well as being easy to steal and sell.
“A lot of the new ones are being shipped out of state,” Bowden said.
That being said, Bowden said there are a number of bikes he’s got an eye out for, both online and in pawn shops, including Worth’s stolen ones.
“If they (turn up), I’ll know,” Bowden said.