Now You See It: Bike sting catches thieves red-handed - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Now You See It: Bike sting catches thieves red-handed

Unattended bikes are often stolen in Oregon (Source: Twitter) Unattended bikes are often stolen in Oregon (Source: Twitter)

PORTLAND, OR (KATU) - Some call Portland, Oregon, the bike capital of the world. For bike thieves, it's like being a kid in a candy store.

"There's a lot of opportunity for the criminal element because of the amount of bikes out here," says Scott Castleman with Corporate Crime Control, a private security company based in Oregon City. "That's a quick, easy way to make some money."

Castleman allowed the KATU Problem Solvers to join him and his crew for a bike sting in the Salem area. He is hired by private companies to do bike stings to protect their customers.

The security agents put out a silver-colored decoy bike in front of a large store. This time, they leave the bike unlocked. See Portland Police's Bicycle Theft Trend Report 2014.

"People that want to come in and spend a couple minutes in the store and don't think to lock their bikes," says Castleman. "Or it can be chained up. We've had both."

The crew then steps back to watch, hidden in cars or out of sight. The back tire of the bike is flat, so it will be harder for thieves to ride away. Within minutes, their first customer arrives.

"That didn't take long," says Castleman. "Yeah, he's checking it out."

A man with a bike is interested in the decoy bike. He eventually leaves his own bike, unlocked, behind another store, and returns for the decoy. He sits casually, smoking a cigarette, until the time is right. Then he grabs the bikes and walks away.

The security agents drive up in their car, get out and approach the man.

"Excuse me, is that your bike?" asks Castleman. "What are you doing with it?"

"Flat tire. I'm just going to take it," says the man.

"Is it your bike?" Castleman asks.

"It's not mine, no sir," the man answers.

"Well, I tell you what. Your bike is over there. You left it there. How about we go take that?" Castleman asks.

In the man's backpack, a glass drug pipe. In his past, a history of arrests, including burglary. He admits he does meth, but says "only recreationally."

The goal with this sting, however, is not more cuffs, but a trespass notice. The man signs, agreeing that if he comes back to the property, he can be arrested.

"We want to remove you from this property because there's so much bike theft going on," Castleman tells him. "And then if we see you again, we're going to have a problem."

The man leaves the property to get his own bike and ride away, trespass notice in hand.

"Our job is to prevent the people from coming back and stealing from you or somebody else," Castleman tells us.

Back in place now, the bike has a new visitor, another rider eyeing the bike and scanning the lot.

"He's looking, looking, looking," says Castleman. "Here he goes!"

As the man grabs the bike, they drive up to him again, and shout at him to get on the ground.

"That bike belongs to my friend," the man says.

"It does? What's his name? What's your friend's name?" asks Castleman.

"Junior," the man finally responds.

The man identifies himself as Andrew. He explains, he wasn't stealing it, he was going to repair the flat tire and take to his friend, though now he remembers his friend's bike as more red and white, rather than silver.

Andrew gives permission to search his backpack. Inside, the agents find needles, what they say is crystal meth, and credit cards in other people's names. Andrew admits he has a meth habit, but says he is honest, with only one arrest on his record that came from a traffic violation.

"Everybody knows me that I don't steal (profanity)," he tells the Problem Solvers. "I don't sit here and I don't lie, cheat or steal to make my way."

He says he does not lie, cheat or steal, but Andrew isn't his real name. The Marion County Sheriff's Office says it is Sean Michael Lee, and he has a long criminal record with arrests for meth, burglary and theft. The security agents call the Marion County deputies, who take Lee away in handcuffs, charging him with drug possession and identity theft. 

Castleman says the stings keep bike thieves away from the properties and takes some of them off the streets, at least for a while.

"I think as a whole, we're really just helping the community feel more comfortable about where they live," says Yonty Urrutia, with Corporate Crime Control. "Some of these individuals could be out breaking into your homes. Just by letting them know, we are a deterrent and we are out there and we're keeping an eye on you."

"Just when you think it's safe to go out and commit a crime, you just never know who is going to be out there watching you," he adds.

The Portland Police Bureau posted its Bicycle Theft Trend Report for 2014. The numbers show where bikes are reported stolen most often, what kind of bikes are reported stolen most often, and which times of year have the most reports of stolen bikes.

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