By Rob Young/Appeal-Democrat
April 11, 2007 – 11:52PM
Seven alleged Yuba City bicycle thieves didn’t know it, but they were sitting on a high-tech law enforcement tool that led to their arrest.
Using a high-tech tracking device manufactured by a Sacramento firm, officers arrested six adults and one juvenile for grand theft over a three-day period in early April, Yuba City police spokeswoman Shawna Pavey said Wednesday.
The Police Department borrowed the Pegasus Technologies Inc. tracking system for a three-day trial run at no cost, said Pavey.
The bait, said company President Jason Cecchettini, was a “flashy,” popular bike model. According to police, the bike was left at various places around town, including Wal-Mart and the intersection of Plumas and Bridge streets.
Although police revealed little about how the tracking system works, a transmitter is concealed within the bicycle and is activated when the bike is moved. Officers can detect the signal from their cars or with hand-held receivers, according the company’s Web site.
Arrested during the sting were: Jaime Martin, 27; Vyacheslav Zeitlin; Timothy Fesmire Sr., 40; Erich Hoff, 36; Charles Kessler, 59; Victor Caneda; and a 17-year-old male whose name was not released because of his age.
While bicycle theft may not be Yuba City’s top crime problem, the Police Department is considering using the tracking system “in a similar manner in the near future” – possibly to help quell vehicle burglaries, Pavey hinted.
Cecchettini said numerous police departments around the country use the bicycle and other Pegasus Technologies tracking systems, including a number of police departments on college campuses where bicycle theft is a major problem.
While car owners can install anti-theft tracking devices on their cars, owners of expensive bikes cannot buy the Pegasus system because it uses a radio frequency available only to police, said Cecchettini.
“There is no frequency for bikes,” he said.
April 3, 2007
Yuba City, California
On the afternoon of April 3, 2007, the bait bike was deployed in front of WalMart in Yuba City, CA. After approximately one hour, the bike was stolen. Yuba City police officers tracked the bike to Taco Bell on Bridge Street where a white male adult was seen riding the bait bike accompanied by two white male juveniles on two other bikes. All three subjects were detained by officers and after investigating the incident, the adult and his 14 year old son were both arrested and booked into Jail. The second juvenile was released. Surveillance cameras caught the incident on video, portions of which are shown below.
Bike thieves beware: Jason Cecchettini knows where you live
By Cosmo Garvin
Local police departments are amassing an ever-expanding arsenal of high-tech tools to fight crime. DNA helps track down murderers and rapists. Tasers, beanbag guns, pepper spray and other “non-lethal” weapons can subdue violent, drugged-up suspects, as well as the occasional anarchist protester.
But you might be surprised to learn about the gee-whiz tech tools that local police agencies are ready and willing to employ against perpetrators of less-dire crimes.
Back in mid-January, Jason Cecchettini’s girlfriend’s truck was broken into near her Curtis Park home. Unfortunately for the crooks, they picked on the wrong person. Cecchettini was sure that a thief was targeting the neighborhood and that, if tempted, the villain would strike again. With the help of the Sacramento Police Department, he laid a trap.
The next evening, Cecchettini placed a fancy bike, unlocked, on the back of his pickup truck in front of his girlfriend’s house at midnight. By 1:30 a.m., the bike was gone, stolen from the back of the truck.
What the thief didn’t know was that the bike was a special “bait bike” of Cecchettini’s own design. It was equipped with a tiny radio transmitter, installed inside the bike’s handlebars. And the same handlebars were coated with a fine, invisible powder that ultimately would betray the criminal.
Using radio receivers tuned to the special frequency that the bike was transmitting into the air, the cops were able to pinpoint the exact location of the thief–only about a mile away from where the bike was stolen–within minutes. They dispensed a little shock and awe while they were at it; a Sacramento Police Department helicopter, equipped with a tracking receiver, was dispatched to hover over the house until patrol cars arrived.
No doubt discombobulated by the thundering swish of the helicopter blades and the blinding searchlights raking the house, the suspect tried unsuccessfully to stash the bike, Cecchettini said.
“He was just freaking out. He was probably only home five minutes when the police helicopters moved in,” he said.
Cecchettini tagged along with the officers, tracking the signal to a back bedroom of the house. There he found what he was looking for.
“I noticed the bed was pretty lumpy. I pulled back the covers, and there she was.” Apparently, it was the best the thief could do on such short notice. “I guess he didn’t have time to stuff it in the attic,” Cecchettini observed.
The suspect also had the telltale green “clue spray” on the palms of his hands. The powder only shows up under an ultraviolet light of a particular wavelength.
Caught green-handed, the suspect was arrested and booked in the Sacramento County Jail.
Cecchettini is president of Pegasus Technologies, a small company that specializes in auto-theft-recovery technology using radio transmitters.
Pegasus makes most of its money selling LoJack-style vehicle-recovery systems to private security companies who are hired by corporations in foreign countries like Pakistan and Kenya.
In the States, Pegasus does small bait bikes and other niche radio-tracking technology just for police departments. Much of the work the company does in Sacramento is done pro bono.
Cecchettini once put a radio transmitter inside a Meadowview man’s air-conditioning unit. It seemed the man was having a problem with a thief who kept stealing heavy appliances–window-unit air conditioners and even a stove–from his house. When the suspect was apprehended, he was pushing the booby-trapped air conditioner along the street on a hand truck that also was stolen from the same house. “He had taken the medicine cabinet, too,” Cecchettini said with a laugh.
The Pegasus radio transmitters are small, unassuming and silent. Police helicopters are anything but. Sure, the police could have just relied on the tracking gear in a patrol car to quietly apprehend the bike thief, instead of sending a helicopter to hover over a residential neighborhood at 1:30 in the morning.
Cecchettini says it’s a matter of officer safety. Helicopters are equipped with infrared cameras, and “they are better able to look into people’s backyards.” They can get to a location faster than patrol cars and are dispatched only for felonies. In this case, grand theft of the bait bike qualified. Besides, he said, the chopper took off pretty quickly after the patrol cars got there. “But it certainly was fun,” he added.
A Sacramento bait-bike program leads to an unlikely and unsolved mystery
By Kim Mordecai
Just when we thought the X-Files were closed, David Duchovny has been spotted in Sacramento stealing expensive mountain bikes. Figure that one out, Mulder and Scully. Actually, it may not be the real Duchovny, but the Trek mountain bike the guy stole is the real deal, a $600 ride complete with a tracking device that allows law-enforcement officials to receive a signal and detect its whereabouts when the bike is stolen.
The bike has been pinched 11 times, which is not surprising considering it’s a pricey vehicle and bike theft is pretty common. However, this particular bike was stolen by the same individual twice, twice. Didn’t get that? Two different people stole this bike on two separate occasions each, and one of the thieves appears to be the X-Files man himself, a.k.a. Special Agent Fox Mulder.
Jason Cecchettini, the mastermind behind the bait-bike operation, installed the ProAct-IV in the bike, which is a tracking device similar to the popular LoJack system. Last March, Cecchettini began lending the bike to law-enforcement organizations interested in cutting down on theft. When Cecchettini created the bait bike, he had no idea that in addition to helping catch the bad guys, the bicycle would invite such bizarre coincidences.
In April last year, the bike was placed on the California State University, Sacramento campus, where there had been an increase in bike thefts. The bike was stolen at 11 a.m. and shortly thereafter was found with no suspect in sight. Several witnesses interviewed said the person who stole the bike looked exactly like the X-Files actor Duchovny.
A month before the Duchovny look-alike first struck, another white male about 18 to 20 years old with a heavy build and a goatee was arrested for stealing the bait bike from an apartment complex in North Sacramento. The bike was tracked to a home about a mile away, and while deputies parked in front of the house, the suspect came out and stood on his front porch. Deputies approached him and used an ultraviolet light to check his hands for an invisible powder used on the bike to help identify suspects. The man had a great deal of the bright-orange powder on his hands, admitted he had stolen the bike, and was arrested.
Some people just can’t leave well enough alone. This same suspect was then videotaped four months later stealing the bike from the same location, and, apparently, the second theft was not an accident. He generously left a note for the authorities scrawled in black crayon on the windshield of the truck the bike was in: “Thanks for the Trek. You got jacked U punk motherfucker. … P.S. Good luck with getting your doors open.”
The suspect not only had filched the bike a second time on tape but also had wedged a piece of metal in both of the truck’s door locks and had punctured the left front tire seven times. As if that wasn’t enough of a temper tantrum, he then proceeded to dump the bike at a nearby apartment complex, where it was found sunk at the bottom of a swimming pool.
Cecchettini was not amused. “Bike thieves really piss me off,” he said, noting that the bait bike led to eight arrests during its first six months of use. “Everybody’s had their bicycles stolen, and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. I do this to help catch these guys.”
Though the bait bike continues to be a fruitful operation, at least one mystery remains unsolved: Duchovny, or his doppelganger, made a mysterious return appearance. Four months after the first theft, look-alike sighting and mysterious disappearance, the bike was stolen again. After police responded to the tracking alert, one officer saw the suspect riding the bicycle. The elusive crook managed to slip away and then abandoned the bike on a nearby trail. When asked to describe the suspect, the officer reported that the guy looked just like Duchovny.
“Because of the similar time of theft, day of the week, location of the bike, witness description, etc., we believe that the thefts were committed by the same person,” said Cecchettini.
Though witnesses and police have provided solid descriptions of the Duchovnyan bike thief, he has managed to evade authorities twice and has yet to be tracked down for questioning. Who is he, and what does he want? As the bait-bike program begins its second season, all Cecchettini knows is that the truth is out there.
October 29th, 2002
On the evening of October 28th 2002, the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department’s bait bicycle was placed in the back of a pickup truck located at 1000 Fulton Ave. At approximately 5:20AM on the morning of October 29th, the bike was stolen out of the back of the truck. This movement activated the ProAct-IV transmitter hidden within the bicycle, immediately alerting the Sheriff’s Department of the theft. Approximately 3 minutes after the activation, the signal disappeared. Sheriff’s deputies attempted to locate the signal for about thirty minutes using mobile tracking receivers but were unable to do so. As they returned to the Fulton Ave. address to retrieve a video tape of the theft, a weak signal was picked up and tracked to an apartment complex on Evelyn Way about a block and a half from where the bike was stolen. The signal was tracked to the center of the apartment complex where the bike was located at the bottom of the swimming pool.
The bike was recovered from the pool and taken back to the Fulton Avenue location. When the video tape of the theft was reviewed by officers, the suspect was recognized as the same suspect who was arrested for stealing the same bicycle on May 24th, 2002. An arrest warrant was issued for the suspect’s arrest and he was eventually picked up, convicted of the theft, and sentenced to several months in jail.
On Tuesday September 17th 2002, the bait bike was placed in the back of a pickup truck located in Parking Lot 7 at the California State University of Sacramento at approximately 10:30AM. This location was selected because of a series of vehicle burglaries that occurred in this parking lot the previous day. At 10:37AM, just seven minutes later, the bike was stolen from the back of the truck. This movement activated the ProAct-IV tracking device hidden within the bicycle. The Sacramento Police department and the CSUS Police department immediately began to track the bait bike’s signal. An off duty K-9 police unit equipped with a Tracking Receiver picked up the signal and within minutes had identified a red Toyota pickup as the suspect vehicle. Several police units joined the K-9 unit and they conducted a felony vehicle stop on the suspect vehicle. The bicycle was recovered from the back of the Toyota truck and the suspect was arrested and booked into the Sacramento County Jail. Several common burglary tools were also found in the back of the truck.
On Wednesday July 24th 2002 the bait bike was placed at California State University, Sacramento. The bike was locked to a bicycle rack across from the bookstore when at 7:20PM someone cut the cable that was securing the bike. This action activated the ProAct-IV Tracking Device on the bike. Within two minutes a Pegasus representative drove by the bike rack and noticed several people leaving the area on bicycles, however, the bait bike was still in place. Assuming that the activation was accidental, the transmitter was reset. At that point, the Pegasus representative noticed that the cable had been cut so he immediately left the area, leaving the bike in place. Approximately 20 minutes later, the bike was stolen, again activating the hidden tracking device. The Pegasus representative tracked the signal to a parking lot about 250 yards from where the bike was stolen and witnessed a male adult placing the bike into the trunk of his vehicle. As he began to drive away, he was stopped by the CSUS Police Department who initiated a felony vehicle stop. The suspect was arrested and booked for 487 P.C. Grand Theft. In addition to the bait bike, one additional bicycle was recovered from within the vehicle. It was later determined that this bicycle had recently been stolen from American River College. The suspect told officers that he and a friend were working as a team to steal bicycles. He stated that his friend would cut the locks off and then he would come by and take the bikes.
On the evening of May 23rd, 2002 at approximately 9:30PM the bait bike was left in the back of a pick up truck parked in an apartment complex located in Sacramento County North Central Division, Zone 3. This area was chosen due to a rash of vehicle burglaries that had occurred at this apartment complex within the previous three weeks. Three and a half hours later at 1:00AM on May 24th, the bike was stolen from the back of the truck. This movement activated the ProAct-IV tracking device hidden within the bicycle. The Sacramento Sheriff’s Department immediately began to track the bait bike’s signal and followed it to a house located approximately one mile from where the bike was stolen. While deputies were parked in front of the house waiting for back-up to arrive, a white male adult exited the house and stood on the front porch. Deputies detained the subject and utilized a portable UV Light Source to check the subject’s hands for the presence of clue spray. The palms of both of his hands fluoresced bright orange from the clue spray on the handgrips of the bait bike. The amount of clue spray on his hands indicated that he had ridden the bike for some distance. The suspect was arrested and booked for 487 P.C. Grand Theft. The suspect admitted that he had stolen the bicycle.
On March 13, 2002 at approximately 10:30 AM the bait bike was parked in front of the Target store located at 1919 Fulton Ave. At 3:30 PM that same day, an unknown person stole the bike which activated the ProAct-IV transmitter hidden within the bike. The transmitter’s tracking signal was immediately picked up by several Sacramento Sheriff’s Department patrol vehicles which followed the signal to a house located about one mile from the Target store. The bicycle was located and recovered from within this house. One female adult was arrested and booked for possession of stolen property after telling deputies that a guy she knew had just stolen the bike from Target. No male subject was located.
The following day, March 14, 2002 the bait bike was again parked in front of the same Target store. At 1:00 PM that day, Target security videotaped one female adult as she got onto the bike and rode off toward the back of the store. This movement immediately activated the ProAct-IV tracking device within the bicycle. A second adult female in a car met up with the thief behind the store, they put the bike into the back of the vehicle and drove off. Again, the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department tracked the signal and within 15 minutes had narrowed the location of the stolen bike to within one building of a large apartment complex about three miles from the Target store. Using hand held tracking receivers, the deputies were able to pinpoint the apartment that contained the stolen bicycle and it was recovered as the two females were attempting to dismantle it. Both subjects were arrested and booked for 487 P.C. Grand Theft. Both suspects admitted to the theft.