Bike Shop Owner Defiant After Raid

Josh Keller is the news editor. Contact him at [email protected]





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The owner of Berkeley's largest outlet for used bikes said police raided his shop for stolen property on Wednesday because they do not know how to solve Berkeley's bike-theft problem.

"They throw up their hands in frustration because they don't know what to do," said Adlai Karim, owner of Karim Cycle. "They want to scapegoat people. I'm not the only one selling used bikes in Berkeley."

At least 10 officers brought much of the inventory of the shop out on the store's Telegraph Avenue sidewalk to search for stolen bikes on Wednesday. Out of about 500 bikes, police said they left with 17 that they said were previously reported stolen or had missing or altered serial numbers.

No charges have been filed in the ongoing investigation, though Berkeley Police officer Joe Okies said last week that police would send evidence to the Alameda County District Attorney's Office with a request for prosecution.

"Possession of stolen property is a crime," Okies said.

Bike theft in common in Berkeley, where more employed residents commute by bicycle than an other city in the county. Berkeley bike shop Velo Sport employee Richard Johnson called Berkeley "a bike-thief magnet."

Karim said he learned of the search when he arrived at the shop on Thursday. He said officers scratched several new bikes by throwing them in a pile and damaged a shop window.

"The place looked like it had been broken into by professional burglars with moving trucks," he said.

A Berkeley officer said Friday that police could not respond to Karim's charges or comment otherwise on the case until Monday.

Karim said that he could not have avoided purchasing used bikes because police do not allow bike shop owners to check their inventory against a police database of stolen bikes.

"I've tried to get them to tell me the history of a bike before I bought it," he said. "Only if you have a personal relationship with the cop, and even then it's a low priority."

Employees at two other bike shops in Berkeley agreed that the police's strategy would not really change the city's bike theft problem.

"They are shifting their emphasis away from who's taking the bikes to who they're selling them to," said Johnson of Velo Sport, which sells only a few used bikes. He said that without a widely used registration system, police would not be able to identify most of the stolen bikes anyway.

Still, bike shop employees said Karim, who said he sells "probably more bikes than anybody in Berkeley," could take more steps to avoid purchasing stolen bikes.

"If he turned down every deal that seemed a little fishy, you could do a little better," said Johnson.

Samantha Haimovitch, an employee at the Berkeley cooperative Missing Link, said that unlike Karim Cycle, her store does not pay in cash and will only buy used bikes in exchange for trade-in credit.

"On the other hand," she said. "We're not in it to make money on used bikes."

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