PROVO -- Hundreds of bikes have been stolen in Provo over the past few months. It's now a top priority for Provo police, who are setting up undercover stings to stop what they call bike theft crime rings.
Provo resident Brandon Livingston uses his bike every day. It's a lot cheaper than buying gas.
"I use it to get to work, school. I use it for recreational purposes like mountain biking," he said.
But in September he stopped at the DMV in Provo to ask a question, and when he came outside his bike was gone.
"I reported it to the police and hoped they would find it. A week went by and nothing. So I just accepted the fact that it was gone," he said.
Livingston had made many modifications to his bike --it's one of a kind. A week ago he spotted a man riding his stolen bike. Livingston chased him down and got his bike back.
"'That's my bike. That's my bike.' He's like, ‘I bought it the other day.' I'm like, ‘That's my bike, man,'" he said.
But most bike victims don't.
"The bikes are an easy target for the drug trade," said Sgt. Troy Beebe of the Provo Police Department. "They're able to pick the bikes up and turn around and get rid of them."
Sgt. Beebe runs the Provo Police Department Special Enforcement Team, which normally focuses on stopping drugs. But after 255 reported stolen bikes in four months, he set up bike theft stings. Officers placed bicycles around town as bait, then watched and waited.
"They will scout and find high-end bikes and cut locks. It's usually not a one person job. There will be multiple people involved," Beebe said.
One sting led to the arrest of suspect Michael Smith. Police have seen him many times before but this time they found eight stolen bikes and learned that bikes were being cashed in for drugs.
Police say the thieves show up all over town. The BYU campus is also a big target.
One student said, "I've had my bike stolen, my cousin had his bike stolen. I know a lot of guys who had their bikes stolen."
Lt. Arnold Lemmon of the BYU Police Department said, "If you want to ride a high-end bike here, I don't recommend it."
Police stress people should:
Police also say the best type of bike lock is a u-bolt lock, because they are much harder for a thief to quickly cut. They tell us thieves will often carry bolt cutters that can snip through cable locks.