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Bike thief Matthew Mark Mellish, 28, was arrested during a sting, near 9th Street and Hope Street on March 12.
“It seems there is no shortage of bike thieves downtown,” said Lt. Paul Vernon, commanding officer of the Los Angeles Police Department Central Detective Division. “With overall crime down 18 percent from last year, we have more opportunity to recognize this trend in bicycle theft and then work the problem.” Bicycle theft rose 60 percent downtown in 2009, and 19 percent across the city.
After a bicyclist reported his bike stolen two weeks ago from in front of the Ralphs supermarket on 9th Street, detectives decided to leave one of their own bicycles unlocked against the bike rack. “The detectives eyed a potential suspect right away,” said Lt. Vernon. “He was loitering around the coffee shop, talking to another man.”
An undercover detective left the bike and walked away. The six-foot tall suspect walked up and rode it away, in plain view of dozens of people. “Most of the people had no idea what was happening as they saw the detectives pile out of a car and give chase,” Lt. Vernon explained.
One quick detective was able to kick the wheel. “Apparently, the thief hit his front brake too hard which brought the rear wheel over the front,” Vernon said. “He’s obviously not a skilled rider.”
Mellish was not seriously injured in the crash. Detectives arrested him on a felony charge for committing a petty theft, with a prior conviction. “To make that charge, this man had to have served at least one day in jail for another theft,” Vernon explained. “This was no impulsive act. He’s a grown man with a drug habit that he wants to support on the backs of local bicyclists.” Mellish’s bail was set at $20,000.
Friday’s sting was only one arrest in more than half a dozen conducted by undercover detectives downtown this year to address robberies and bike thefts.
“The best thing about this arrest was all the onlookers high-fiving the detectives after the arrest,” Vernon said. Being a bike thief downtown won’t win you any friends.”
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