RESEDA — Looking for bicycling burglars who strike before dawn, Los Angeles police may be questioning any cyclists they see roaming the streets at unusual hours.
Three bicyclists have been arrested on suspicion of burglary in the last three weeks and police have issued a crime alert over several similar incidents, said Lt. George Rock of the Los Angeles Police Department's West Valley Division. In the last few weeks there have been six burglaries in which witnesses saw possible suspects riding away on bicycles.
Police arrested Jeff Bollen, 27, on Nov. 12 at 3:15 a.m. on suspicion of burglary. He was riding a bicycle and had a backpack full of burglary tools, including a night-vision scope, Rock said.
Bollen, described by police as a transient, was later charged with receiving stolen property because he had several credit cards that did not belong to him in his possession when police arrested him, officers said.
Antonio Arrellano, 21, of Reseda was arrested Nov. 19 on suspicion of burglary after he was seen biking near the scene of a burglary in the 7400 block of Canby Avenue at 3 a.m. When he was arrested, Arrellano was carrying a car radio and burglary tools, Rock said.
Police apprehended another man who was riding his bike early one morning in the same week when he bolted from a police patrol. He was arrested on suspicion of another burglary and on drug possession charges.
Rock said the "mode of operation" of the burglars is unusual but practical. Most of the men are homeless, Rock said, and probably could not afford a car. Bicycles are also more stealthy and versatile than cars, he said.
"They are quieter and they can get in and out of narrow alleys or go between cars in parking lots without being readily noticed or heard," Rock said.
Rock said the bicycle burglars have been working between the hours of 3 and 5 a.m. on side streets or parking lots near apartment buildings. Four of the burglaries have been from parked vehicles and two from apartments, Rock said.
Small items such as jewelry and cash were taken, Rock said.
Rock said LAPD officers may pull over bicyclists in the early-morning hours for questioning.
"We would have probable cause because of the unusual time and settings of the suspects involved in criminal activity," Rock said. "We'll question them as to what they are doing."
Rock said residents could avoid burglaries by keeping a sharp eye out for suspicious early-morning bicyclists and by setting up security lights, motion detectors and other security measures.
"People shouldn't hesitate to call the police if they see someone biking around that early in the morning," he said. "It's unusual for the average citizen to be biking around in the early-morning hours."