02/01/09 — Police see rise in scooter thefts

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Police see rise in scooter thefts

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on February 1, 2009 2:00 AM

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Patrick Dunleavy leaves his home on South Audubon Avenue in Goldsboro and begins his commute to work on his bicycle one day last week. Dunleavy, who works at the N.C. Fraternal Order of Police Fundraising Center on North Center Street, recently had his Zonshen moped stolen -- just one of the many such thefts that have been reported in recent months.

Patrick Dunleavy's purchase of a "really brand-new-looking" Zonshen moped was intended to save money on gas.

Now, he's riding his bicycle, because like many area residents, his alternative transportation is likely in the possession of a thief.

"I had it parked in my backyard, and somebody decided they wanted it better than I did," Dunleavy said. "I parked it ... about 10 p.m. at night, and didn't see it (missing) until the next morning."

Dunleavy, who works at the N.C. Fraternal Order of Police Fundraising Center on North Center street, is not a lone victim.

Police admit that the thefts of all-terrain vehicles, scooters, mopeds and other forms of gas-sipping transportation have become a problem.

"We've had a lot of that, and I think -- and this is nothing scientific by any means -- but I think they are a whole lot more prevalent now, during the gas crisis," Police Sgt. Chad Calloway said. "A lot of people are riding them. I've noticed people who have cars, and they might work in town, and they're riding them to work."

And, police officials said, that has translated into more thefts.

Between July and January, a six-month period, a News-Argus analysis tracked at least 33 reported thefts of such vehicles.

There's a problem with tracking down such vehicles,  though, because they don't have the same registration requirements as other vehicles, Calloway said.

"Obviously, they don't have to have tags, they don't have to be licensed -- the things that gives us help to get cars back," the sergeant said.

Registration of traditional automobiles helps get them back because it makes VINs -- vehicle identification numbers -- part of a record police can access.

With the small, alternative vehicles, police often have to rely on the record-keeping of the owner, the sergeant said.

"If a person doesn't write (a serial number or other identifier) down, then it's just gone," Calloway said. "They're just easy, like a bicycle."

However, there are steps people can take to protect their mopeds and scooters, even though the best-protected property can still be stolen by someone with enough time, access and determination, police officials said.

"If I were being asked what to do, I'd lock it up or put it inside -- inside a garage or storage building or something like that," Calloway said.

As for Dunleavy, he's still hoping his moped will show back up, although he has little hope.

And he won't be making the plunge on another such vehicle any time soon, he said.

Dunleavy said he's not even the only one in his office who's had that sort of vehicle stolen, noting another other who had one stolen in Dudley.

"I wouldn't want to buy another one," Dunleavy said. "They don't care if it's locked down."