Eleven members of the Harvard Cycling Team were victims of bicycle theft in West Haven, Conn., on Saturday night.
While staying overnight at a Hampton Inn during a two-day race at Yale University, the cycling team members left their bikes locked in a van in the hotel parking lot.
Sunday morning, they found the van doors broken open and their bicycles gone.
“We’re really bummed out. Race bikes are worth several thousands of dollars, and the worst thing is that all of these bikes are student bikes that we bought ourselves,” said team captain Sophy T. Lee ’12.
Lee said that according to West Haven Police officers, the police have recovered five of the bikes and identified a suspect who has not yet been apprehended.
According to Lee, a Connecticut State Trooper pulled over a car driving down the highway toward New York at 9:45 p.m. on Saturday night after a civilian called 9-1-1 to report that the car had bikes hanging through its windows.
The officer found five bikes in the car and ascertained that the driver had a criminal record, including 21 counts of larceny in the West Haven area, according to Lee.
The police confiscated the bicycles because the man’s explanation for having them did not seem plausible, but without evidence of theft, the officer let the man drive away, Lee said.
Since one of the bikes had an identification sticker issued by the Harvard University Police Department, the West Haven police called the HUPD, who in turn called the members of the cycling team. “We woke up on Sunday morning to a bunch of calls from HUPD,” Lee said.
West Haven and Harvard police representatives could not be reached for comment on Monday.
After receiving these surprising wake-up calls on the second day of their race, the teammates went outside, where they found that a lock had been broken off the van’s door and pushed in. All eleven bikes that had been inside had been taken.
Cyclist Ian C. Boothby ’14 was among the victims. “We’re really pleased with the way that the West Haven police have been handling the case. They put a detective on it and fingerprinted the bikes,” he said. “They’re taking it seriously and not just brushing it off.”
Lee added, “They know the [suspect], and consider him a regular to the department. We’re just trying to figure out where he is.”
Boothby commented that the suspect had removed the bikes’ front wheels in order to fit them into his car. “This definitely seemed premeditated,” he said.
Lee recalled a police officer stating that this was one of the biggest single incidents of theft the West Haven Police had seen. The department brought in a whole team of officers despite the fact that it was Easter Sunday.
A few members of the team had driven to the race individually, so their bikes were not in the plundered van. They raced on Sunday while the rest of the team spent the day in the police station and the hotel.
The cycling team sent detailed descriptions of the six bikes that have remained missing to their acquaintances via email and social networking sites in the hope of recovering their property.
“These guys aren’t going to hold on to our bikes for long,” Lee said. “They’re very recognizable, high-end bikes. The more people that know about them, the better chance we have at getting them back.”
Lee also sought to caution other cycling teams after the theft. “I sent out a list to all of the collegiate conferences in the U.S., warning them to take the extra 20 minutes bring the bikes into the hotel room,” said Lee. “No matter where you are it just takes one guy with a hammer.”
—Staff writer Julia K. Dean can be reached at email@example.com.