In a city-owned storage room on the grounds of the West Virginia Penitentiary are several large piles of rusting, unclaimed stolen bicycles the Moundsville Police Department has recovered over the years.
"There are hundreds of them," Moundsville Police Chief Tom Mitchell said. "It's getting out of hand."
The bikes are piling up as the police department regularly retrieves stolen bicycles that have never been reported missing in the first place.
Photo by Sarah Harmon
Moundsville Police Chief Tom Mitchell stands in a storage room in the former West Virginia Penitentiary filled with piles of recovered stolen bicycles.
Most people who have their bike stolen are not reporting the theft to the police, Mitchell said, leaving the department with no leads when they get a recovered bike on station. What results is a room full of broken and rusting bikes no one is claiming.
The department often gets the bikes from people who find them abandoned around the city.
According to Mitchell, people who steal bikes sometimes will take one just to ride to where they are going and then abandon it. If the bike is expensive, some might take the time to break into a garage to steal it, but the owner might not notice the bike is missing for months.
Mitchell said he is trying to come up with a plan to get rid of the bikes and is considering selling them to a scrap yard in Benwood.
He said the money from selling the scrap metal would go directly into the city's general fund.
"What the city's done historically is ... some that were repairable, they'd give to kids," Mitchell said. "But it gets out of hand and we don't have the time for people to be fixing all these bicycles."
Mitchell advised people to immediately put an identifying mark, such as an engraved name, on a bike soon as they purchase one.
He also recommended safeguarding a bike and reporting to the police when its stolen.
It also helps to know the brand and model of the bike as well. These steps make it easier for officers to identify a stolen bike and give it back to the owner quickly.
"It's a problem everywhere," Mitchell said. "It's a big mix of bikes with value and no value. Ideally, we want to retrieve them to give back to kids."