The thieves who smashed the window of Tim Staton’s new Cargo Bike Shop in St. Paul never touched the cash register.
Sometime under the cover of darkness late Monday evening or early Tuesday morning, they climbed into its Selby Avenue storefront and pulled out seven rugged cargo bikes – large European-style bikes meant to carry multiple people, errands or d other important transports.
Each bike sells for between $1,200 and $11,000 and weighs at least 100 pounds, and five of them were of the electric-assist type. The culprits, Staton said, also took boxes of electric locks and chargers, virtually wiping out his small store, which quietly made its first sales last year but is still more than two months away from its grand grand opening. .
“It seems very intentional and very planned,” Staton said Thursday afternoon, standing outside his boarded-up window at 1592 Selby Ave., just off Snelling Avenue, shortly after exchanging notes with a police officer from St. Paul. “It wasn’t a chilling teenage couple.”
Store manager Mel Cherry added, “They took everything.” There were only a handful of bikes left, including a few cargo models.
BIG AND BULKY EQUIPMENT
Staton said he hasn’t invested in security cameras yet, but he hopes someone might have photos, footage or another piece of evidence to share with St. Paul police.
Staton, who lives in Madison, Wis., and has run a bike shop there since 2014, pondered aloud how the suspects could have hauled some $40,000 in rather large and cumbersome gear. He said police informed him that a stolen U-Haul was found in the city on Tuesday afternoon, though it’s unclear if it’s related.
Within the cycling community, tales of bike rings carrying stolen goods to out-of-state buyers – even buyers as far away as Mexico or Europe – are well known, although most of these thefts have taken place in Chicago, Denver and Southwest locations well outside of Madison and Minnesota.
“I couldn’t fit all the bikes in my van,” Staton said. “They are super unique. They don’t blend. Another reseller will not buy them. You cannot disassemble them and make another bike. I can’t imagine they’re going to show up on Facebook Marketplace in the Twin Cities.
VOLUME OF STOLEN GOODS CAN INCREASE COSTS
Steve Linders, a spokesman for the St. Paul Police Department, said the volume of stolen property could elevate criminal charges.
“That certainly makes it a crime,” Linders said. “It’s going to be investigated, I can tell you right now. The initial officer makes the report. This will be forwarded to an investigator who will take a look at it.
Still, at a time when high homicide rates across the country are garnering national attention, Staton said he’s well aware that property crimes — particularly stolen bikes — have become a low priority. level for the police, so he turned to a resource increasingly enlisted by victims of bike theft. In a word: vigilantes.
“Tim, like all the other bike owners, works through Twin Cities Stolen Bikes, a sort of Facebook bike theft vigilante group that recovers stolen bikes – and exists because the police can’t. doesn’t or doesn’t want to solve property crimes,” said Ashley Asmus, a data scientist at St. Paul who publicized the thefts on behalf of Staton because he’s not particularly active on social media.
Twin Cities Stolen Bikes helps find and return stolen bikes to their owners, sometimes arranging purchases, with or without police involvement. Project 529 Garage, the world’s largest online bicycle registry, estimates that more than 2 million bicycles are stolen each year in the United States and Canada, an average of one bicycle theft every 30 seconds and 1 billion dollars of losses.
“I STILL LOVE THIS NEIGHBORHOOD”
These estimates, industry insiders say, are likely conservative, as many thefts are never reported to police.
“Bike theft is really bad everywhere right now,” Staton said. “I’m glad it’s our bikes and not our customers’ bikes. We’ve temporarily lost a source of income. We have insurance.
If there’s a silver lining to his loss, Staton said, it’s that the “smash-and-grab” theft reaffirmed his commitment to the neighborhood. More than one customer has offered to host an online fundraiser for the store or publicize the thefts to local media.
“I still love this neighborhood,” Staton said. “This is what we do. We are passionate. I’m not giving up.”