OCEAN CITY – One Ocean City local’s good fortune of recovering her stolen bikes serves as reminder to seasonal and year-round residents to take precaution to keep their own bicycles safe this summer.
For many Ocean City residents, their bicycles are a sentimental object, whether it is a means of transportation or the enjoyment of peddling around the resort during the summer months. Unfortunately, many bicycles fall victim to theft and never seen again.
This was not the case for Heather Lowe, 26, who decided to take the case of her stolen bicycles into her own hands.
“At first I was really upset that my bike was stolen. I felt that I couldn’t trust the town anymore because I felt that we lived in a safer community,” Lowe said. “Taking it into my own hands I feel successful that I was able to get my bikes back and it wasn’t a total lost. With the police telling me it happens all the time, it is sad. I was ecstatic to recover my bikes because it more of a sentimental recovery then financial.”
Lowe noticed two of her bicycles had been stolen on the morning of Sunday, May 18. When she arrived home from work the night, her bikes were still in place under her condominium building in the area of 128th Street but the next morning the cable to the bike lock had been cut.
According to Lowe, when she filed a report with the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) that day, the seasonal officer who reported to the scene explained bicycle thefts are common in Ocean City this time of the year, and it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary if the bicycles were never recovered.
“He didn’t reassure me my bikes would be returned, and had said this type of thing happens frequently,” she said. “I had texted him pictures of the bicycles I owned that he included in the report, and said he would do a roll call entry, so that every shift would see the pictures of the bicycles.”
On Wednesday, June 4, around 5 p.m. Lowe was entering Ocean City from Route 50. While stopped at the traffic light on Baltimore Ave. and 2nd Street, she observed a female riding one of her stolen bicycles. It was immediately identifiable as it is a pink cruiser decked out with local surf shop stickers.
“I called the police while I followed her onto the Boardwalk, and I told her she was riding my stolen bicycle. She was a foreign exchange student. I held her there until the police came, and while we were waiting she had told me she bought the bicycle from a gentleman that lives in her building,” Lowe said. “Whoever stole them had to have a pickup truck, and means to go around uptown, cutting cables and locks, stealing many bikes.”
Lowe was able to find out the female lived in the apartment building, Summer Semester, on 2nd Street and St. Louis Ave.
“They tried to sell my bike to her for $50 but bargained down to $30. From what she was saying, it sounded like he was selling numerous bikes. Her friends had walked up on the Boardwalk and acknowledged they were aware they had bought stolen bikes,” Lowe said.
Once the officer arrived and had confirmed it was Lowe’s stolen bicycle, she retrieved her bicycle and returned home.
“Once I found out that this guy living in her building was selling stolen bicycles I was curious,” she said.
Around 6:30 a.m. on Friday, June 6, Lowe was on the way to drop her boyfriend, Craig Hetrick, off at work when they drove past Summer Semester and spotted her other stolen bicycle parked under the building. At that moment, Lowe saw two seasonal officers and waved them over to explain the situation. The action attracted the attention of Summer Semester building manager George Harkins.
“He said he didn’t tolerate stolen property under his building, and a week previous a husband and wife had come and recovered one of their stolen bikes,” Lowe said. “Just from my observation from under the building it looked like there were several other stolen bikes from uptown because there were beach cruisers with Fenwick Island Surf Shop stickers on them.”
By watching surveillance footage, Harkins was able to identify a male tenant, a J-1 student, selling the stolen bicycles to other J-1 students. Harkins also confirmed there was more than one case where stolen bicycles were recovered from Summer Semester that was sold by the same student. Once identifying the suspect, Harkins turned him over to the OCPD, as well as his sponsor with the United Work and Travel program, and he was evicted from the building.
“He told the police he was selling used bikes for someone from West Ocean City for a commission,” Harkins said.
OCPD Public Affairs Specialist Lindsay O’Neal confirmed this week OCPD is currently investigating the case. According to O’Neal, there have been a number of bicycle thefts reported so far this summer.
In the meantime, O’Neal advised anyone who has a bicycle stolen to contact the police department at 410-723-6600. An officer will respond to file a description of the bicycle, so that if any officer comes across a bike that is believed to be stolen or abandoned, the department can determine who the bike belongs to and return it to the owner.
O’Neal furthered the first thing a citizen who owns a bicycle should do is to register it with OCPD by filling out a form and sending it to OCPD or stopping by the Public Safety Building. A bicycle registration form can be downloaded from http://oceancitymd.gov/Police/registration.html.