BYU bicycle theft mystery solved

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Students whose bikes were stolen from campus this spring can now rest a little easier, as details regarding the mysterious increase in bicycle thefts on campus this spring were recently revealed.

University Police noticed an abnormally high amount of stolen bikes this spring, 13 bikes were reported stolen on campus during April and May. The majority of the bikes had been secured to bike racks.

University Police solved a case involving a bike theft ring. Photo Chris Bunker.
University Police solved a case involving a bike theft ring. Photo by Chris Bunker.

After a thorough investigation and clever detective work by University Police, Samuel Horne, 22 from Lehi; and Talen Nolan, 27, from Saratoga Springs, were convicted of theft and theft by deception.

Horne and Nolan, who have no affiliation with BYU, both have extensive criminal histories. Horne and Nolan have been involved in 29 and 22 criminal cases, respectively, within Utah County alone.

Horne and Nolan focused on stealing expensive, high-quality bicycles, and then sold them to various pawn shops throughout Utah and Salt Lake counties.

BYU Lt. Arnold Lemmon explained why bicycles are a popular target for theft.

“(Thieves) can steal whatever they get their hands on, and bikes are pretty easy to acquire,” Lemmon said. “Bikes are very liquidable. Pawn shops are their best friends.”

Lemmon said police started piecing the trail together toward the end of April, when a reported stolen bike was found by the Provo Police Department.

An official University Police report from April 12 stated that a BYU student reported his $640 Fuji Nevada bicycle and $35 cable lock were stolen from the Jesse Knight Building bike rack. The student gave the bike’s serial number to BYU officer Brad Burr as part of the report.

Ten days later, Provo Police received a call from local residents who had acquired the license plate number of Nolan’s vehicle.

According to an official University Police supplemental narrative, the residents “heard someone fiddling with the bikes outside our door. I saw a white male who was carrying my neighbor’s bike on his shoulder.”

The residents pursued Nolan and Horne in their car for several blocks until the suspects noticed they were being followed and sped away. The residents had written down the car’s license plate before the pursuit ended and later called Provo Police to report the incident.

Provo Police discovered the car was registered to Nolan, and they searched for him on the State Pawn Database. Police discovered that Nolan had pawned multiple bikes within the past week, and one bicycle matched the serial number of the stolen Fuji Nevada bicycle.

Upon further investigation, BYU officer Brad Burr discovered that multiple bikes Nolan had pawned matched with bikes stolen on BYU campus. Burr went through security video records and found videos showing Nolan and Horne drive up to campus in Nolan’s registered car and leave with bicycles on multiple occasions.

After this conclusive evidence, Burr received a warrant for Nolan’s arrest out of Utah County Justice Court. Nolan was arrested at his home in Salt Lake City on April 23.

Nolan disclosed his working relationship with Horne during an interview following his arrest. Nolan and Horne grew up together in Lehi, and Horne courted Nolan through Facebook about partnering up. Horne didn’t have a car, so Nolan provided the transportation while Horne stole the bicycles. They would split the money after the bike was pawned.

Nolan also disclosed to University Police the locations where each bike was pawned. Nolan and Horne had pawned 20 bikes throughout Utah, Salt Lake and Davis counties.

Lemmon praised the collaboration effort between University Police, Provo Police and other area police departments as the reason the case was solved.

“It is good for law enforcement agencies to combine efforts,” Lemmon said. “If we did this more often we would solve more crimes. It creates a united front and allows the prosecutor more leverage.”

According to an official University Police report, in general students should feel safe about leaving their bikes on campus. Sixty-nine bikes were reported stolen in 2012, the lowest total since 2005, when 54 bikes were stolen.

Lemmon suggested that one of the best ways for students to protect their bikes is to get the right lock to keep it safe.

“If you use cable locks you might as well put some twine on them for these type of thieves,” he said. “You should only use a U-lock.”

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