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Seattle Police bust Edmonds chop shop, find 60 stolen bikes

Image from SPD
Image from SPD

Seattle Police have made their second big bike theft bust in a month.

After getting a tip from a bike theft victim, detectives posed as a buyer and bought a bike from a suspected thief selling bikes on Craigslist. When the detective confirmed the bike was stolen from a transitional housing program for homeless veterans (definitely a bad kharma multiplier), the suspect was arrested.

But here’s when the bust gets really good: The suspect tells police about a house in Edmonds where he has taken stolen bikes previously. When police arrive, they find 60 bikes in the backyard, part of a suspected chop shop. It is common for stolen bike sellers to swap out some bike parts before listing them for sale online, making it harder for owners to identify their rides.

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Unfortunately, the original tipster’s bike was already sold. But 60 people owe him/her a debt of gratitude. Thanks for your work, and thanks Det. Scotty Bach at SPD for taking action and following up! With more busts like this, bike theft might just become a bit less attractive for folks looking to make some quick money.

Photos of all 60 bikes are below. You can see them in more detail on the SPD Blotter post:

A tip from a sleuthing bike theft victim led police to staggering number of stolen bicycles and a suspected chop shop Wednesday in Edmonds. Now detectives want to know if they have your bike.

SPD Major Crimes Taskforce Detective Scotty Bach began investigating the case last week, on April 7th, after receiving a tip from a man who had found his own stolen bike for sale on Craigslist.

Major Crimes detectives contacted the Craigslist seller and said they were interested in buying a bicycle. The seller met with undercover detectives, who arrested him after discovering he’d sold them a bike stolen from a transitional housing program for homeless veterans.

The seller–who police learned had already sold off their tipster’s bike–told police he frequently sold stolen bicycles at a home in Edmonds.

Detectives went to the Edmonds home, in the 21000 block of 80th Ave W, and found a huge stash of bicycles sitting out in the yard. They checked the serial numbers on two of the bicycles, learned they were stolen, and requested a warrant to search the home.

Police seized 60 bicycles from the home, where they believe a resident was running a chop shop, breaking down and rebuilding bicycles to sell online.

If you believe one of the bikes posted below belongs to you, email Scotty.Bach(at)Seattle.gov and include the number of the pictured bike. In order to claim your bike, you will need to provide proof of ownership, like a purchase receipt, case number related to the bike or photo clearly showing you with the bike.

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13 responses to “Seattle Police bust Edmonds chop shop, find 60 stolen bikes”

  1. Allan

    That is really shocking, if all those are stolen bikes someone is working full time looking for anything they can get. It looks like they will take anything, the good, the bad and the ugly. Question: I use a fat cable and a combination lock, do I need an upgrade? I don’t leave my bikes anywhere for long. I also usually ride an 8 speed(x3=24) with a cheap group on a nice frame. I don’t suppose that is a deterrent either judging from the pictures. I use a long cable because I lock to trees, light poles, anything convenient and those U locks are heavy and won’t lock to trees, etc. I also prefer to lock in front of a store rather than use a bike rack that is around the corner and out of sight.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I suppose I can’t speak for every cable, but even many fairly strong-looking cables can be cut with hand-held cutters. And anything than can be cut with hand-held cutters is low-hanging fruit.

      In general, thick chains and u-locks are the best. Smaller u-locks are actually more secure than bigger u-locks (less space to fit a pole or small jack to “pop” the lock), so if you’re worried about weight, perhaps a small u-lock is best for you. An additional cable is good for securing wheels if you want to totally cover your bases.

      Or if you have the cash, you could get an Abus folding lock. I have one, and I like it: http://www.abus.com/us/Recreational-Security/Bike-Safety-and-Security/Locks/Folding-locks

      In the end, you gotta find the balance of security, budget and convenience that works for you. There’s no single solution that is perfect for everyone.

    2. The last time a bike was stolen from me (a long time ago now, fortunately), the police told me that every cable (as opposed to chain) lock could be cut so quickly with common tools that they’re almost useless.

      1. I had a bike that was stolen, a folding bike with a frame-integrated cable lock, which was pretty slick though not particularly thick. The thief clearly made an unsuccessful attempt to cut through the cable during the day, gave up, and cut the brake cables so I wouldn’t be able to ride home, then came back and finished the job at night. Had I not been stupid and left it out overnight (I had a thing to get to and a brakeless bike would have slowed me down) the cable lock would have saved the bike.

        On my larger bikes I use a cable that attaches to my U lock to secure my wheels. There is a pronounced “bite mark” in the cable, presumably from someone trying to cut it and failing.

        Once when I was in college the bike rack outside a building I was visiting was full, so I cable-locked the frame to the wheels. This didn’t stop someone from trying to steal the bike, but it did stop them from succeeding — apparently they tried to ride it and fell over, and the only damage was a bent crank (which bent back easily).

        I’m sure the police have tools that will go through a cable like a hot knife through butter. I’m sure there are some really good bike thieves out there with the same tools. My experience suggests that a significant amount of theft can be deterred with a lowly cable.

    3. Andres Salomon

      A friend of mine just had his new bike stolen last week (in lower QA). He used a cable lock. When knew he should’ve had a U-Lock, but hadn’t gotten around to buying one yet.

      Unfortunately, there are many shitty bike racks out there that will really only work with a cable lock. Got a small U-lock, like I do? Have fun parking to a sign post, fence, or random other non-rack object.

  2. AW

    Good questions Allan. Tom, may I suggest you write a post about the kinds of locks that are best for protecting bikes and other information and suggestions to help us avoid getting our bikes stolen.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Just posted in reply to Allen above! I’ve been meaning to put together such a post for a while now. I’ll get to it one of these days… :-)

  3. Cheif

    ulock for the frame, locking skewers for wheels and seat, don’t leave your gear out overnight, don’t assume your apartment parking garage is safe.

  4. Lulea

    The only bike stolen of mine has been a bike that I secured with a cable lock. For that last 3 years I have kept a bike outside year round overnight secured with two U-locks and it is still there when I go to use it in the morning. Other friends of mine that have had bikes stolen, they were using cable locks or did not have them locked up in their buildings secure parking garage. Not to say u-locks are foolproof but the cable locks are much easier picking as stated by Tom.

    1. AW

      It used to be that the ULocks were easily broken by spraying Freon to freeze them and make them brittle and then banging them with a hammer. Are the newer Ulocks not susceptible to this ?

  5. sean

    I recently upgraded to the Kryptonite New York lock, which comes with $3,000 worth of insurance for one year once you register your bike with them. It weighs a ton, but combined with a cable that I thread through my tires and saddle, I feel good about leaving it outside during the day. NEVER leave your bike outside overnight, unless you absolutely have to. (And even then, don’t leave your bike outside overnight).

    That being said, the 12th circle of hell is reserved for bike thieves.

  6. Tracy

    Great. This house is literally 3 blocks from mine.

  7. Michael McLean

    Several years ago when I was doing some volunteering for The Bikery, several of us were curious about the efficacy of cable locks so we proceeded to work on the several locked ones which did not get donated with a key or combination. There was a large bucket of them. With a Park Tools brake cable cutter and a little practice, the thicker cables were cut between 3 and 4 minutes. The slimmer cables lasted way less than that. Last summer I found a bike in the Interlaken Forest with a u-lock attached. After clearing it with Bike Index and East Precinct I got a steel cutting disk from Hardwick’s that attached to my humble power drilll. It took 20 minutes with lots of noise and dust to get it off the bike.
    My takeaway? Cables are okay if you are still in the general area and give the occasional glance. i.e. front of a cafe while dining/coffee; at a park while your attention is mostly on your children; street office window…if it’s out of sight and out of mind it will be gone.
    Cutting a u-lock means noise and takes time which criminals don’t like.
    Full disclosure: I currently work part time in the cycling dept. at REI. Also, I know your lovely wife Kelli Reifer since I volunteer for Cascade when I can. Any questions or comments just get back to me.
    Michael Mclean

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