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Bike couriers chase down bicycle thief in wild downtown pursuit

February 22, 2010 |  3:40 pm

The location where the bike was stolen. Click for the Downtown Mapping L.A. Neighborhoods page to learn more about the area. Two bike messengers saved the day for a Los Angeles man Monday when they chased a bike thief for five blocks downtown and then knocked him to the ground, causing him to flee, police said.

Jesus Tobar, 43, said he was working out at 24-Hour Fitness in the 500 block of Flower Street in downtown Los Angeles when he emerged to find his green Iron Horse Desperado Mountain Bike gone.

Tobar returned to the gym to ask if there was any security surveillance video. But two bike couriers had seen his $500 bike being taken and had already set off after the thief.

The couriers pedaled through downtown at high speed on a chase that traversed sidewalks and busy streets, said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith. Eventually, one of the messengers was able to grab the thief's shirt and pull him to the ground.

The man then took off on foot and the couriers reclaimed the bike.

"This was a wild, high-speed bicycle chase through crowded streets of the Jewelry Mart," Smith said. "We are now looking for a 30-year-old man with a torn shirt, a possibly sprained ankle, as well as road rash."

Although this case had a happy ending, officials say bike thefts have been on the rise, increasing 29% last year and bucking an overall drop in crime. Los Angeles Police Department detectives believe the increase is in part a result of more people using bikes to get around in some neighborhoods.

A Times analysis of LAPD data found the USC campus area, Venice, parts of Hollywood and downtown L.A. to be hot spots for bike thefts.

As the thefts have increased, some people have taken matters into their own hands. Last month, bike messengers downtown caught two suspected thieves, teenage boys who attended a local Catholic high school, and stripped them down to their boxer shorts before taking their cellphones, backpacks and clothes.

-- Andrew Blankstein

Map: The location where the bike was stolen. Click for the Downtown Mapping L.A. Neighborhoods page to learn more about the area.

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