By Samuel Van Blaricom
WOODLAND, CA – A grand theft felony charge was leveled against Angelo Rosa Friday for allegedly stealing a $1,700 mountain bike that was used as part of a “bait bike” operation in the city of Davis.
Judge David Reed then denied a motion to reduce it to a misdemeanor.
During a preliminary hearing, Detective Michael Moore provided testimony about the arrest made from the operation. He said that the police set the bike in a liquor store parking lot and observed Rosa looking around and then eventually taking the bike.
When confronted, Rosa initially said someone bought the bike for him, before changing his story to saying that “he found the bicycle over by the liquor store.”
Detective Moore stated that the bike used in the operation was chosen with the intention of making a felony arrest, rather than a misdemeanor.
“The value of the bicycle was selected [to allow a felony charge],” he said in response to Deputy Public Defender John Sage’s questioning.
PD Sage took issue with this statement, saying that it was like “using a hand grenade when a firecracker might be more effective.”
If convicted, Rosa could be looking at anywhere from 16 months to three years in state prison.
PD Sage also focused on the appearance of the bike, claiming that it looked abandoned, which is a common sight in Davis due to the number of students that leave them behind after graduation.
“It’s 11 o’clock at night, it’s outside a liquor store, there’s no one around it, … it looks like it was placed there specifically as an attractive nuisance, to draw someone to take this bike. It’s got flat tires on it, so you can’t tell how long it’s been there. It’s not chained to anything to indicate that anyone is coming back to it,” reasoned Sage.
According to Detective Moore, the police department placed a backpack filled with toilet paper and soup cans on the bike in an attempt to make it seem less abandoned.
Toward the end of his argument, PD Sage voiced his displeasure about the practice in general.
“Detective Moore indicated that it was specifically purchased not to get someone into the system so that maybe they can learn from their mistake, but it was specifically purchased so that they will be charged with a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor. I’ve always said from a restorative justice principle that this is a very bad approach,” Sage said.
Bait bike programs have been implemented in many cities over the past decade with mixed degrees of success.
Another city with a University of California campus, UC Irvine, created a bait bike program in 2015. According to the Orange County Registrar, the number of bike thefts in 2019 was in line with the number reported before the program was created, at around 309 reported thefts.
In 2020, in part due to the pandemic, bike thefts shot up to more than double the previous year, despite the continuation of the program. Irvine also uses bikes valued at more than $950 to get a felony charge.
After hearing all argumentation from both PD Sage and Deputy District Attorney Emilie Johnson, Judge Reed decided that he would not reduce the charges.
“If he had said ‘I thought this was abandoned, I wasn’t stealing,’ that might be different. But clearly his statement showed that he had something else in mind. The fact that there was a backpack there is circumstantial evidence that it wasn’t abandoned,” said Judge Reed, referring to the statement Rosa gave to the police when first confronted.
The next court date for Rosa will be an arraignment on information on Nov. 19 before trial setting.