Friday, June 14, 2024

An encampment of unhoused people by the Charles River in Cambridgeport. (Photo: Matt Rocha)

The Cambridge Police Department recovered at least 14 stolen bicycles Wednesday from a chop shop set up by the Boston University Bridge.

Inside the makeshift structure made up of tents and tarps, detectives found standard and electric bikes. They also discovered a moped, trailers, scooters, license plates and various parts.

“Five residents, who are unhoused and living in an encampment, were identified. They had no warrants and were offered resources for shelter and food,” said Jeremy Warnick, director of communications and media relations for Cambridge police.

The detectives brought the stolen items to the police station, where staff look forward to reuniting owners who reported stolen bikes with their property, Warnick said.

Residents who have a serial number or other unique identifying information to validate ownership are encouraged to call Detective Robert Ciriello at (617) 349-7726.

Stolen bikes and e-bikes were recovered Thursday from a chop shop near the Bu Bridge. (Photo: Cambridge Police Department via Twitter)

Adam Dincher, a Cambridge resident, was a victim of the thieves. Around noon Sunday, while driving back from Boston, he noticed that his bike, to which he had attached an Apple AirTag, had moved unexpectedly on the Find My app. When he returned home, he said, the bike was gone. Dincher tracked the AirTag.

The thief “was within 200 feet of that spot. Just minutes ago he had stolen the bike,” he said.

Dincher followed the AirTag to Magazine Beach in Cambridgeport, where he discovered the makeshift chop shop. He explained his story to a Cambridge police officer who was parked nearby, but the officer said he could do nothing – the shop was State Police territory and outside his jurisdiction, Dincher said.

After chasing the thief across town, Dincher was frustrated the officer could not help him. “We’ve been hearing so much about how this Memorial Drive area on both sides of the river is such a gray area for jurisdiction,” he said.

Dincher decided to pursue recovering the bike himself. He followed the AirTag to the chop shop and approached a man sitting outside.

“It was pretty clear he was the man who had obtained my bike,” Dincher said.

After Dincher confronted him, the man allowed Dincher to enter the tent and get his bike. Inside were 20 to 30 others – up to double the number that the police department would later recover, Dincher estimated.

“You can bet that bikes had been going out of there for a long time,” Dincher said. “You could tell it was an operation where they were taking parts. They had some rims around; they had some chains.”

After securing his bike and leaving the tent, Dincher called State Police. But he later said in a Reddit thread that when they came, “nothing was done.” Later that evening, he emailed the City Council about the event.

One reason for the police departments’ reluctance to act Sunday was suggested on social media Monday, when a Cambridge police account posted that “our detectives are involved in a multi-agency investigation related to this issue.”

Dincher was happy to learn that the Cambridge police had shut down the shop. “It’s nice to see that action can actually happen if you push for it enough,” he said.

Dincher’s experience is part of a trend, according to data from Cambridge police and other sources. So far this year, Cambridge has seen a 74 percent increase in bike thefts from last year and a 36 percent increase from the five-year average. The police department gets about 500 reports of bike theft each year.