MIAMI (CBS4) – Burglars have been smashing their way into motorcycle shops across South Florida and taking off with pricey dirt bikes and, for the most part, they are getting away with it.
Police departments have been working to bust the bike bandits but they say the people riding the stolen bikes have a major advantage over police-speed.
CBS4’s Natalia Zea went along on a special aviation detail aimed entirely at stopping dirt bike riders, illegally riding on the street, in an effort to find stolen bikes.
It’s a game of cat and mouse but these mice ride high-speed dirt bikes, many of them stolen.
Officers are considered to be the slow-moving cats, sticking to the Miami-Dade Police Department’s policy not to chase riders.
All police can do is track them by helicopter, coordinating with cops on the ground, and work to corner the riders.
“From our perspective it’s very aggravating because they know what our limitations are,” said Lt. Zack Larson.
Police believe the young people riding illegally in the streets may be behind the more than a dozen burglaries at motor shops across South Florida.
Surveillance cameras don’t stop the burglars but showed how efficient they are and quickly they moved.
In most cases, a group of burglars use a stolen pickup truck to ram through the doors, gates and windows of the targeted business.
In a flash, they weave their way through show rooms and head straight into stock rooms. The burglars pass the more expensive motorcycles and make their way out with the preciously prized speedy dirt bikes.
They sometimes get away with five, seven or even nine dirt bikes at a time, in a matter of a few minutes.
Some store managers believe that the same guys have committed the thefts.
“These are not thrill-seekers, these are people that are professionals,” said Broward Motorsports manager Phil Bohi.
Some shop owners have stopped selling dirt bikes altogether, hoping it will stop their business to being targeted.
Sometimes individuals are the targets.
A group of friends rented a warehouse in Opa-Locka to store their dirt bikes when they don’t use them at the track. After thieves broke in the warehouse twice, they installed concrete bars in the floor just behind the warehouse door.
The last time the thieves rammed the door with a stolen pickup truck; it got stuck and forced the crooks to run.
The warehouse renters said that they put in the bars because they were frustrated by police failure to make an arrest or recover their bikes.
During the aviation detail, Miami-Dade police showed some of their efforts to round up stolen dirt bikes and bust the bandits.
The riders broke numerous traffic laws, including driving the wrong way down the road and ran stop signs. Police, however, could not and did not chase the drivers but used information from the chopper to locate them.
Police pulled up right in the middle of all the action at a parking garage in Little Hati where a yellow dirt bike was found laying on its side. Just moments later, officers placed driver Jakkari Hill in the back of a patrol car.
When cops ran the VIN number on the bike that was hastily dumped, they found it wasn’t reported stolen. Hill was still charged with fleeing from police and is awaiting trial.
At the same time police arrested Hill, they tracked down one of his alleged buddies on a different dirt bike and into a nearby neighborhood.
Police found the stolen bike that the driver dumped but he managed to get away, despite the help of a neighbor who called in to 911 to give his location.
“We are trying our best. It’s just the bounds of certain bounds we can’t fall within,” said Detective Michael Hufnagel.
The VIN number was scratched out on the stolen red Honda dirt bike but police were still able to trace it to the owners at La Ocho Motor Sales in Little Havana. The store had been hit three times and employees said during one of the burglaries the crooks even held an employee at gunpoint.
“They pulled out the guns, submitted him and then took the bikes out,” said former employee Alex Hidrobo.
Many of the people who have been arrested for stolen dirt bikes or trying to flee from police have long rap sheets, including Deondre Lane who is now charged with first degree murder.
Detectives said the toughest part is linking the riders on the stolen bikes to the break-ins at the motor shops around town.
“Unfortunately with these types of crimes, there’s so little leads it’s hard to tell,” said Det. Hufnagel.
And though the M-O’s of most of these burglaries are nearly identical and at least one bike was found in a cargo container in Broward County, detectives said there is no evidence of a larger ring behind the break-ins.
Some store managers disagree.
“It’s absolutely well organized, they thought long and hard about this and it’s not the first time they’ve done this,” Bohi told CBS4 News last year after his store was hit.
Detectives said they are working to get information out of the people that they’ve arrested and will continue to go after others.
However, police say that catching dirt bike riders in the street can be a slow process.