Police chief: Increase in bicycle thefts likely tied to addiction epidemic

BUCKHANNON – An increase of bike thefts in the past two months may be linked to the addiction epidemic, according to Buckhannon’s police chief.

During that time, at least three thefts involving bicycles were reported to the BPD, according to Chief Matt Gregory. One of the bikes was reported stolen during the week of Christmas, while the other two were reported stolen the first week of January.

“The drug epidemic has a ripple effect into many other things in society, a lot of those involve theft issues,” Gregory said.
Since then, two of the three bikes reported stolen have been recovered and one person was arrested last week for one of the thefts.

Todd Sutton, 38, of Buckhannon, was arrested Jan. 6, 2020, for allegedly stealing a bike from a residence on Wood Street on Dec. 26, 2019. Patrolman Angel McCauley with the Buckhannon Police Department arrested Sutton on College Avenue after Lt. Doug Loudin spotted Sutton riding a gray bike with neon green lettering. According to the criminal complaint, Sutton admitted to taking the bike, which was valued at about $90.

The BPD also recovered a mountain bike that had been stolen from its owner on Dec. 30, 2019. (Read more here).

Gregory said a string of bike thefts that have occurred over the past several months is likely related to the addiction epidemic. The police chief said sometimes individuals who steal bikes either trade them for drugs or sell them for money to purchase controlled substances.

Gregory said the prices of the bikes vary. For instance, one of the bikes that was reported stolen and later recovered on Cleveland Avenue was valued at $4,000, while the others pricing ranges from around $90 to $2,000.

One aspect about bicycle thefts that have changed, however, is that people seem to be going to greater lengths to steal them, Gregory said.

“People were breaking into outbuildings and stealing the bike (recently), and normally, we’ve had situations where bikes have been left out in yards and people just come by and roll them away, but that hasn’t been the case here recently,” Gregory said. “People have actually been committing a breaking-and-entering to steal the bike as well.”

Gregory also explained that most people look for an easy target to steal from, and there are many ways to deter bike theft, including securing valuables; installing adequate lighting or motion-sensor lighting around the property; and using surveillance cameras since most of these thefts occurred during the night or early morning hours.

“If the item is stolen, if you could give us a good description of the bike that includes any unique markings on the bike [when reporting a bike theft],” he said. “Please also include the serial number. If you can think to record your serial number, keep it in a safe place, and if you ever have to report it stolen, you can make that part of the report, and that gives us a unique identifier later on. If we had that more, it would definitely assist us on the investigation side.”

Several investigations into stolen bikes are still ongoing.

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