Bicycle and scooter thefts a factor in Decatur crime increase

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt February 29, 2016
Decatur Police Officers compare notes in the parking lot of Decatur High. File photo by Dan Whisenhunt

Decatur Police Officers compare notes in the parking lot of Decatur High. File photo by Dan Whisenhunt

Crime statistics for 2015 by the Decatur Police Department shows an overall increase in crime, driven in part by a rise scooter and bicycle thefts.

The information also revealed that there was a rape reported in 2015, a crime that’s rarely reported in Decatur. Decatur Police Lt. Jennifer Ross, the incident occurred on Sept. 21 at 6:06 a.m.

“Officers responded to a local business in reference to a person screaming. Further investigation revealed a female had been sexually assaulted and a male suspect was taken into custody on scene,” Ross said. “No further information is being released to protect the identity of the victim. The victim was not acquainted with the suspect.”

There were no sexual assaults reported in 2014.

Crime in Decatur rose 11 percent overall in 2015 compared with 2014.

Vehicle thefts increased by 30 percent over 2015, the largest increase in any category. Ross said theft of scooters was partially responsible for this trend.

“In 2015, we had 14 more vehicles reported stolen than in 2014 and once again the smaller numbers lead to larger percentages,” Ross said. “One of those cases involved a dirt bike and five of those cases involved scooters. We have had an increase in community members owning scooters in Decatur and some scooters do not require tags so last year we started registering scooters during bicycle registrations.

“Also, in tracking and mapping stolen vehicles throughout the year, we noticed an increase in vehicles being stolen from parking decks and parking lots in the downtown area. As soon as a pattern/trend was established heading into the summer months, we began assessing issues such as security, accessibility and lighting and working with property managers and security personnel as well as increasing our patrols in the areas and saw a decrease in the latter part of 2015.”

Bike thefts were also a problem. The thefts of bicycles are counted differently depending on the circumstances, Ross said. Burglaries increased by 29 percent and thefts increased by 10 percent.

“In 2015, 18 of the burglary cases reported involved the theft of bicycles. In the state of Georgia, if a bicycle is inside of a shed, garage or on an enclosed porch, whether the structure is opened or closed or locked or not, the case counts as a burglary rather than a theft,” Ross said. “The same holds true for lawn equipment taken from garages and sheds. We had an issue with bicycle thefts throughout 2015 that led to an increase in both our burglary and larceny (theft) categories.”

Interestingly, a single arrest appears to have cut down the number of bicycle thefts, Ross said.

“I recall one case later in 2015 where a neighbor witnessed a suspect trying to steal a bicycle from his neighbor’s property and called police,” Ross said. “The description they provided matched that of a person an officer had recently identified. Additional investigation led to issuance of an arrest warrant and that suspect was later taken into custody outside of Decatur. We do not believe he was the only person stealing bicycles in Decatur in 2015, but we have experienced a drastic drop in bicycle thefts since November 2015. We have had no bicycles reported stolen since 12-22-15.”

She added, “Please do not jinx us.”

Here are the crime statistics compiled by the city of Decatur. Ross’ full statement is also reprinted beneath these figures.

Comparative Crime Analysis 2014-2015 (1)

From Lt. Ross:

Regarding the sexual assault case, the incident occurred on September 21, 2015 at approximately 6:06 am.  Officers responded to a local business in reference to a person screaming.  Further investigation revealed a female had been sexually assaulted and a male suspect was taken into custody on scene.  No further information is being released to protect the identity of the victim. The victim was not acquainted with the suspect.

As far as the assaults, for the purpose of calculating UCR stats, the overall assault category includes aggravated assaults, aggravated battery, battery, simple battery and simple assault.  Those crimes are then broken down into aggravated and simple.  Aggravated is defined as use of a firearm, knife or cutting instrument, other dangerous weapon or hands, fist, feet, etc with aggravated injury and simple is defined as other assaults – simple, not aggravated.  Cases that fell into the aggravated category show an 18% increase but if you look at the raw numbers, there were 11 such cases 2014 and 13 such cases in 2015.  The difference in cases were only 2 incidents but our percentages usually fall victim to our low number of incidents overall.

In 2015, 18 of the burglary cases reported involved the theft of bicycles.  In the state of Georgia, if a bicycle is inside of a shed, garage or on an enclosed porch, whether the structure is opened or closed or locked or not, the case counts as a burglary rather than a theft.  The same holds true for lawn equipment taken from garages and sheds.  We had an issue with bicycle thefts throughout 2015 that led to an increase in both our burglary and larceny (theft) categories.  If you look at our theft numbers in 2014, (482) and then our theft numbers in 2015 (532) that is a difference of 50 incidents.  However, 88 of the 532 theft cases in 2015 were thefts of bicycles.  As we identified trends in bicycle thefts in 2015 we continued to notify the community via local media, Nation of Neighbors and neighborhood meetings.  We published and distributed a Bicycle Theft Prevention brochure for community members and increased the number of bicycle registration events offered.  One of the issues we consistently deal with regarding stolen bicycles and other personal property is owners not having record of the make, model and serial numbers for their bicycles, electronics and other items that have serial numbers.  Having the serial numbers for such items and providing them to the police if they are stolen, allows us to place the items on the stolen article database which is cross checked with items that are pawned.  It also allows officers to instantly be notified an item has been reported stolen if the officer comes across items on stops, during search warrants and when found abandoned, when they check the serial number.  In addition, we had an internal operational plan in place to address the surge in stolen bicycles and our investigators also followed up with the cases and worked with surrounding agencies who were also experiencing an increase in bicycle thefts.  I recall one case later in 2015 where a neighbor witnessed a suspect trying to steal a bicycle from his neighbor’s property and called police.  The description they provided matched that of a person an officer had recently identified.  Additional investigation led to issuance of an arrest warrant and that suspect was later taken into custody outside of Decatur.  We do not believe he was the only person stealing bicycles in Decatur in 2015, but we have experienced a drastic drop in bicycle thefts since November 2015.  We have had no bicycles reported stolen since 12-22-15.  Please do not jinx us.

In 2015, we had 14 more vehicles reported stolen than in 2014 and once again the smaller numbers lead to larger percentages.  1 of those cases involved a dirt bike and 5 of those cases involved scooters.   We have had an increase in community members owning scooters in Decatur and some scooters do not require tags so last year we started registering scooters during bicycle registrations.  Also, in tracking and mapping stolen vehicles throughout the year, we noticed an increase in vehicles being stolen from parking decks and parking lots in the downtown area.  As soon as a pattern/trend was established heading into the summer months, we began assessing issues such as security, accessibility and lighting and working with property managers and security personnel as well as increasing our patrols in the areas and saw a decrease in the latter part of 2015.  Investigators also process recovered stolen vehicles  for evidence that may identify potential suspects, track cases for patterns in recovery locations (most vehicles stolen in Decatur are recovered in Atlanta and DeKalb County) and coordinate with other Metro Atlanta agencies to share information about patterns and suspects.  We have had 4 vehicles and 1 scooter stolen since January 1, 2016.  In one of those cases a vehicle was left running in the driveway for 20 minutes, one was left unsecured with the spare key inside and one was taken during a burglary where the resident left the home unsecured while walking a pet and returned to find the vehicles keys and vehicle stolen.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

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