The UC Police Dept. arrested and cited five people in connection with bicycle thefts during the week preceding Fall Quarter.

Bicycle theft has been on the rise since 1999, with 218 cases reported to the UCPD in 2001. Bicycle theft is the No. 1 crime reported to the UCPD each year, UCPD Assistant Chief of Police Bill Bean said. In the UCSB campus safety report, the UCPD reported 161 cases of stolen bicycles. In 1999, the number of cases reported grew to 203, and 211 cases were reported in 2000. While all five incidents of theft in September have been isolated incidents, the UCPD has taken a proactive approach to prevention.

“It seems like we have an unusually busy year already with bikes being stolen and that’s one of the reasons we wanted to get this out,” Bean said. “We are actively going after these guys.”

“I think it is common at the beginning of the year because a lot people don’t know how to lock their bikes properly and because of the new bicycles that are given to students when they go to college,” said Sgt. Suzanne Malloy. “I think that bike thieves target universities.”

The UCPD set up a sting operation to catch bicycle thieves and had more success this year than in the past.

As part of the sting operation, the UCPD places a decoy bicycle owned by the department at various bicycle parking lots around campus and watches from a distance, waiting for someone to steal the bike. The UCPD then follows the thieves to see where they go and what they do with the bicycle.

“It is not entrapment because we’re not enticing anybody to go over there and steal it,” Bean said. “All we’re doing is providing a bicycle that doesn’t belong to those people and they have no business to take it to begin with. It is just a bicycle that is sitting there like thousands of others. It is a crime of opportunity.”

Two of the arrests in the sting operation have been made in bicycle parking lot 23 near the Events Center. In one incident, the UCPD observed Gerado Lule-Paniagua, 19, approach the decoy bicycle and examine it. He then leaned the bicycle against a pole and locked his own bicycle to a bicycle rack near by. Lule-Paniagua then rode off with the decoy bicycle into I.V. where officers stopped and questioned him. In his statement, Lule-Paniagua said a “tall white guy” claimed ownership of the bicycle and told Lule-Paniagua he could have it. UCPD officers did not observe a tall white guy approach Lule-Paniagua. Lule-Paniagua was not able to prove his identity and was taken to the Santa Barbara County Jail and booked for petty theft. Officers later found that Lule-Paniagua had a fraudulent residential alien card. Lule-Paniagua will have to appear in court.

UCSB student Ryan Powers Lewellyn, 19, was also arrested, cited for petty theft and released after taking a decoy bicycle set up by UCPD in bicycle parking lot 23. Lewellyn told UCPD officers that his bicycle was stolen recently and figured that it was karma to take the decoy bike, Bean said. Lewellyn will have to appear in court, as well.

Two of the arrests made were from a single incident involving one male and one female, both of whom are UCSB students. On Sept. 26 at approximately 12:24 a.m., a CSO officer observed what appeared to be a bicycle theft in progress at campus-affiliated housing Francisco Torres. The CSO officer saw Jared Bret Edrosolan, 22, remove a pair of bolt cutters from his backpack and cut the lock from two bicycles. Paige Nicole Delong, 22, accompanied Edrosolan in the incident.

A description was called into the UCPD by the CSO officer. In Edrosolan’s statement, he said he saw a CSO officer and told Delong to “take off.” Edrosolan and Delong separated and went off in different directions. They were both stopped by UCPD officers and questioned. When asked if he knew why he was being stopped, Edrosolan said, “Because I just took this bike.”

Edrosolan consented to a search of his backpack, in which a pair of bolt cutters was found. Edrosolan was arrested, cited and then released on misdemeanor charges of petty theft and possession of burglary tools. Delong was arrested, cited and then released for taking a bicycle without permission for temporary use, or “joy riding.” Both will have to appear in court. Bean said both Edrosolan and Delong where “regretful and completely forthcoming about the incident.”

The name of the perpetrator and the circumstances of the crime were not available for the fifth arrest.

Petty theft is the theft of property worth $400 or less. Theft of property worth more than $400 is grand theft. Although petty theft is a misdemeanor and the penalty for it is either a fine or one year in county jail, being caught with stolen property is a more serious offense.

“We’re going to put a lot more emphasis on bicycle theft. Of course there’s a lot more to it than bicycle theft. If you’re riding [a stolen bicycle], that’s stolen property. You could be charged with a felony for possession of stolen property … and be subject to having your house searched with a lawful search warrant to look for other stolen property,” Bean said.

Students will be more likely to recover their bicycles if they register their bikes with CSO, Malloy said.

“It’s a county ordinance and it’s also required on campus to have registered bicycles. The advantage to registering your bicycle is that it is stamped and a license is given to it. All of the important identifying information is kept on file with the registration. So if somebody’s bicycle is lost or stolen, they can just call the police department and we have all the information on file already,” Malloy said. “Another advantage to registering a bike is if their bike is stolen, and they’re the one to find that bike, then they’ve got prove that the bike is theirs because it’s been registered in their name.”

Malloy and Bean also recommend that students use strong U-locks to lock their bicycles to stationary objects and to not lock the bike to itself.

Students can register their bicycles at the CSO office Monday through Friday from noon to 3 p.m. The cost is $6 and it is valid for the entire time a student attends UCSB.