Scooter and Moped thefts in Florida

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Scooter and Moped thefts in Florida

Postby Tab » Mon Aug 28, 2006 1:51 pm

Juveniles driving up area scooter, moped thefts

Sun staff writer

On a recent August afternoon while he was studying with a friend, Devin Byrnes said he was dumbfounded as he saw his scooter being rolled out of his carport.

The 23-year-old University of Florida student who lives in a house behind Sorority Row said he was more shocked to catch two boys, 12 and 14, stealing his blue Hyosung scooter in broad daylight. After he scared them off, he saw them go over to three more scooters.

"I didn't want to ruin their lives over it because I caught them and they didn't get my scooter," Byrnes said. "But when I saw them with the other scooters, I had to call police. I'm surprised at how young and brazen these kids were."

The number of scooter and moped theft victims in Gainesville is growing, police said.

Since June, there have been 101 reported auto thefts in Gainesville, police said. Half of those stolen vehicles are scooters and mopeds, GPD Sgt. Ray Barber said.

The common denominator in these cases?
Most of the victims are college students and most of the thieves are under 18, Barber said. In many instances, groups of children - some as young as 12 - will get together to specifically organize scooter-stealing sprees in student apartment complexes and neighborhoods, Barber added.

"It's just unbelievable," Barber said. "In one day, we arrested about 10 juveniles on 30 felony charges for stealing scooters. They steal them for transportation and when they break down or run out of gas, they throw them down and steal the next one."

The wave of thefts has left police scrambling to solve the crimes and raise awareness about the problem, Barber said. In many cases, the thefts are preventable if owners would "be more diligent" and use locks on their scooters, Barber added.

Meanwhile, UF police officers say they have actually seen a decrease in scooter and moped thefts on campus in the past 1 years.

UPD Capt. Jeff Holcomb said seven such thefts have been reported so far this year. In 2002, there were 20 scooter thefts; the number of scooter thefts crept to 26 in 2003. The number of thefts rose again to 29 in 2004, then took a dip in 2005 with 14 thefts, Holcomb said.

With well-lit parking areas and more patrols assigned to a smaller area, Holcomb said it's easier for officers on campus to find and deter would-be scooter thieves.

Students like Byrnes say they prefer scooters instead of driving a car or catching the bus to campus to avoid parking headaches and long wait times. While mopeds and scooters are traditionally thought of as being cheap transportation for students, that's not the case anymore, said GPD spokesman Sgt. Keith Kameg. The least expensive scooters go for about $700 or $800.

"(But) some of these (scooters) cost $4,000 or $5,000," Kameg said.

"With the start of school, we're anticipating an onslaught. It's creating a crime problem that's going to shoot our auto theft numbers for the year through the roof."
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