When the Calvert family moved out of their Payran Street home and into a new residence on South McDowell Boulevard last week, they knew they had to make some adjustments to living in a busier part of town.
"We planned on having to lock our doors all the time, make sure our stuff was put away, and keeping a more careful eye on our belongings," said Abby Calvert.
But this wife and mother of two was not expecting to have her husband's bicycle stolen on the second night of living in their new place. "It was so disappointing," she said. "Especially because the bike was in our side yard, behind the house, in a tucked-away spot."
The Calverts are among the many victims of a recent spike in bicycle thefts occurring in Petaluma during the past few weeks, according to the Petaluma Police Department. It's also the latest occurrence in a larger uptick in property crimes occurring throughout the city since late last summer.
Petaluma Property Crimes Detective Paul Gilman said that while bicycle theft has been common in Petaluma, the past few weeks have been particularly bad.
"The number of reports has been way higher than normal," said Gilman, who said that 19 bicycle thefts have been reported in the last six weeks. The department took just 13 bike theft reports in the three months prior. "They're cutting bike locks, taking them from people's garages, stealing them from bike racks in front of stores, and even taking them off bike racks on the backs of people's cars."
Gilman, who has been investigating the rash of bicycle thefts, said that he believes there is a particular crime ring in town responsible for the bike theft, as well as a growing number of thefts involving patio furniture being stolen out of people's yards. "They are scouting the bikes out ahead of time," he said. "There's a pattern of scouting and a unique methodology to the thefts lately that has made us think that it's a particular group of people." Gilman declined to give further details about the crime ring, citing the ongoing investigation.
Unfortunately for Calvert, the chance of ever recovering her husband's stolen bicycle is very low. Calvert said she didn't know the serial number of the bike she paid approximately $250 for a few years back, and that she did not have any photos of the bike, a gray beach cruiser, either — both things that Gilman said could help get stolen merchandise like bicycles back to their rightful owners.
"We're grateful for the wakeup call, without any real damage being done," said Calvert, who planned to photograph the rest of her family's bicycles that afternoon. "I'm sure there are a lot of people like us who didn't think to report it because they couldn't identify their property."
In a trend that began last summer, break-ins, thefts and robberies have been steadily increasing in Petaluma. Petaluma Police Lt. Tim Lyons said that since January 1, the department has received 58 burglary reports, five attempted burglary reports, and 255 auto burglaries or thefts from vehicles.
Some law enforcement officials believe the recent spike in property crimes is related to Gov. Jerry Brown's attempt to reduce overcrowding in state prisons by releasing less dangerous criminals to county jails, known commonly as "realignment." In October of 2011, thousands of non-violent felons who are considered to be "low-risk" were released from state prisons to county jails — a move that some say may result in these offenders being released into society earlier than they would have otherwise.
How to help
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the Markus family. To donate, go here.