Detectives from the Montgomery County Police 5th District Patrol Investigations Unit have arrested and charged a teenager in connection with a string of at least six, and up to a dozen, burglaries of open garages and theft of bicycles.
Detective Jesse Dickensheets and the 5th District investigators have been investigating a string burglaries of open residential garages that occurred in late August in the Clarksburg area. The suspect in these burglaries stole bicycles.
On August 30, a Clarksburg resident notified detectives that two of his stolen bicycles were being offered for sale on the app, OfferUp. Detectives identified the seller of the stolen bicycles as a 16-year-old juvenile male. Investigators further determined that the juvenile had sold multiple bicycles on the OfferUp app beginning in early June of 2017.
“Until we got the report from the victim finding his bicycles on OfferUp,” said Detective Jesse Dickensheets, of the 5th District Patrol Investigations Unit. “I knew that the bikes were disappearing, but I didn’t know where. Then the victim found his bicycles — two very high-end bicycles on OfferUp. One was worth about $4,500, and the other was a custom one-of-kind mountain bike work $2,800.”
Dickensheets said the victim was persistent. The victim was able to drive around Clarksburg and find a car with a Pennsylvania license plate parked in front of the same house where the photo was taken and posted to OfferUp in an attempt to sell the bikes.
The victim called patrol officers. “When officers ran the prior history on the address, it turned out that I had previously locked this kid up for bike theft,” said Dickensheets. “He was a frequent flyer, somebody we had dealt with before for doing this.”
Dickensheets said that suspect confessed to stealing the two high-end bikes and provided a phone number of the person that had purchased the two bikes. Once the purchaser was contacted by police, it turned out that he previously bought four additional bicycles from the suspect over the past month, all of which were reported stolen.
According to Dickensheets, the purchaser ran a bike shop out of his garage in his spare time. He would fix up bikes and resell them. “He thought he was getting a good value. And he did, he paid $600 for a bike that was $4,500,” said Dickensheets.
Detectives then contacted OfferUp to get all of the suspect’s OfferUp sales for the last few years. It turned out to be 2,600 pages of records. “The kid is a true businessman,” said Dickensheets, “Unfortunately, it is of the illegal sort. He had cell phones, bicycles, vehicles, and gaming stations.”
Investigators contacted the buyers of the previously sold bicycles and recovered 11 bicycles. Detectives determined that six of those bicycles had been reported as stolen from the garages in Clarksburg. Dickensheets does not believe that the suspect was acting alone. He believes that other juveniles in the area have been helping in both the theft and the storage of the bicycles.
The thefts for which the teen is charged occurred on the following dates and locations in Clarksburg:
- August 20 – 23100 block of Newcut Road.
- August 26 – 23800 block of Burdette Forest Road
- August 26 – 11900 block of Skylark Road
- August 26 – 23100 block of Mistflower Drive.
- August 27 – 22700 block of Autumn Breeze Avenue
- August 30 – 11800 block of Snowden Farm Parkway
According to police, five of the 11 bicycles have been returned to their owners, and police are still attempting to get six more bikes back to their owners.
Dickensheets said that for the most part, the bikes that were stolen by this suspect were high-end bicycles. “I think these bikes were scouted out.” He thinks the suspect or suspects would peer into garage windows before breaking into the garages to make sure the bicycle was worth the time and effort to break in. “For the most part, he focused on bikes from the Trek and Fuji brand. One victim had three Road Master bikes,” said Dickensheets. “There were some low-end bikes taken. If there was a high-end bike and a low-end brand right next to it both of the bikes are taken.”
Dickensheets has three key pieces of advice for residents on how to prevent becoming a victim of garage break-ins.
1. Lock your garage.
2. Block your windows so people can’t see what is in the garage.
3. Record serial numbers of anything that might be of value.
“Sadly, many of the victims have no way or proving that the bike which we’ve found is their bike,” he said. “And we have to ask them — how do you know it is yours? What aftermarket modifications have you made to the bike? What marks are on the bike? Have you ever crashed it? Tell me about the scars and marks on the bike?”
He also pointed out that all bicycles in Montgomery County are supposed to be licensed. “That way the serial number is on file with the county. Unfortunately, not too many people comply with that.” Residents can license their bikes through the County’s online registration page.
“I want people in Clarksburg to check their garages to make sure that their bikes are there. If not they are welcome to call me at 240-773-6261,” said Dickensheets.
Dickensheets said that the 5th District Police Station is currently housing six or seven bikes that had been abandoned in the Germantown/Clarksburg area, which are unrelated to this case in Clarksburg. “I usually have about three or four bikes per month that end up being sold at auction.” Anyone who has lost a bike should call the 5th District at 240- 773-6200.
“The other thing is if residents find a bike laying around abandoned, please report it to the police or bring it into the police station. I am the one that handles all the bike reports. If somebody brings in a bike, it is brought to my office and take down all the information. I write a report and try to match it up with an owner.”
“If people report their bikes as being stolen, which most people don’t do because they feel it is a waste of time. However, there is a good chance that they will get their bike back if they can tell me the name brand of the bike and color, I can get them back to them in a day or so.”
Top: Map of area where the six garage burglaries took place in Clarksburg.
Next: The current crop of unclaimed bicycles in the 5th District Police bike corral.
Photos courtesy MCPD.