Jun 232011

An ongoing sting operation designed to take thieves off the streets of Uptown New Orleans has resulted in five arrests in less than an hour’s work over the last week, and may be helping reduce break-ins, police said Thursday.

“It’s like a trawl net,” said Sixth District Commander Bob Bardy. “We catch a lot of thieves.”

Kenneth R. Frank

Last week, Bardy assigned a team of officers led by Sgt. David Liang to a simple task: leave a bicycle unlocked and unattended on St. Charles Avenue, and arrest anyone who tries to steal it. That Wednesday evening, it took only seven minutes for the “bait bike” to be stolen by Randy Gould, Liang reported back the next day.

Over the week since, Liang’s task force has tried again four more times, each time with similar results, Liang reported back to Bardy this week:

  • On Thursday, it was 54-year-old Kenneth R. Frank, who stole the bike within five minutes.
  • Friday, a 14-year-old riding on the handlebars of another boy’s bicycle hopped off, jumped on the bait bike, and began peddling away before he was arrested.
  • Saturday on O.C. Haley Boulevard, 45-year-old Herbert Beraud stole the bike in just under 10 minutes.
  • Tuesday morning, the bicycle was taken by 46-year-old Ernest Gaskin, who pleaded guilty to residential burglary in 1989 and was wanted on a warrant by Jefferson Parish.

Herbert Beraud

“There’s no hestitation,” Liang said of how quickly the bicycles are stolen. “If you leave your property unattended and it’s not taken, you were just lucky that day.”

Liang’s task force had previously been assigned to heavy patrols of the lower St. Charles Avenue area to quell a rash of auto break-ins last month. One night, Bardy said, the patrols caught a man with a red bicycle breaking into a car. After his arrest, officers realized they had seen him riding around the night before, but on a white bicycle.

Ernest Gaskin Jr. (via opcso.org)

Both bikes were likely stolen, Bardy said, and used while the thieves looked for more lucrative targets. Several of the suspects nabbed in the “bait bike” sting also have had lengthy records of thefts of and other crimes, he said.

“They’re opportunists. If a bike is available, they’re going to take a bike rather than walk,” Bardy said. “But you’re getting a thief, and in some cases, with a very significant record.”

The stings netted yet another bicycle thief on Thursday afternoon, with our reporting partners at WWL along for the ride:

Contact Robert Morris at rmorris@NolaMessenger.com, or post your comment below.

  6 Responses to “Police: Your unlocked bike won’t last 10 minutes on the streets of New Orleans”

  1. I don’t doubt this. We live in a corner grocery store on Camp and we keep our three bikes on a rack outside our rather large storefront window. Since school let out, almost every day while I am at the computer, young African American boys give the bikes a good tug as they pass by. An older man stole the seat off one of the bikes (we now stow those inside with the helmets and other whatnots). Of course, the bikes are krypto locked to the rack and then each locked to the other. My daughter always says, “There they go again – trying to unlock the Gordian Cycle Knot!” but I’ll admit, I never confront them after the one time I opened the door at the exact moment a man running was running toward the lake, wielding a gun. For him, I called the NOPD and they did mill around in the intersection for a few minutes (despite getting a clear description, a direction of travel, and a shout from a woman who encountered the man two blocks up).

    I hope that these “people with significant records” that the police are hauling in are actually going to get prosecuted. One has to wonder what is going on in the DA’s office when we see that these criminals are just turned back to the streets with alarming regularity.

  2. Self help note to NOPD…

    “Focus 90% of your time on solutions and only 10% of your time on problems.”

    Self help note to NOLA…
    Poverty + no or bad education = crime
    We can’t arrest our way out of this!!!!!
    Just as much of our resources (our own time?) needs to be invested on rehab these “repeats”- + investing in long term solutions for those born into our system without a moral compass and no one to point them to a Sun rise.
    We need more than NORD- and even they are still WAY UNDERFUNDED and dysfunctional at best.

  3. Good tactics, good strategy, NOPD…Good reporting, Messenger…

  4. Great idea & execution NOPD.

    “Police say if you have a bike, use your common sense and keep it in a safe and secure place.”
    – If only there were more safe & secure places, like large bike racks, to lock bicycles up conveniently located THROUGHOUT the city.

  5. Sorry, but I don’t get it. Am I the only one? If you come across a bike on the middle of a sidewalk, unlocked, with no owner in sight, isn’t it at least a reasonable assumption that it was abandoned? Especially given that NO care was put into keeping it safe. I would hate to have walked by the bike that day, because I would have probably walked into all the nearby shops and asked if it belonged to anyone in the stores, and when everyone said no, I just might have concluded that it was abandoned or out for trash by someone who just didn’t want it anymore and then taken it to give to my cousin who really does work in a mission helping the homeless and transient youth. Now I am sure these “thieves” did not go checking for an owner before taking the bike, but I still wouldn’t say that the bike was stolen. Any thoughts?

  6. AR — It does seem more likely that anybody who takes it really does intend to “steal” it rather than save it from the landfill or find the rightful owner — but the uncertainty strikes me as enough to get anybody acquitted who actually fights the charges.

    Really, the police should lock it with the wimpiest lock they can find — enough to show that it was locked, but something that can be stolen with simple tools (or no tools at all, if the bike is used as a lever to break it.)

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