A ring of bicycle thieves have put Turlock in their crosshairs and the number of stolen bikes is mounting.
The Turlock Police Department has recorded an uptick in bicycle thefts since September and a good number of those thefts share some commonalities. The particular target for these thieves are more upscale adult bikes. The majority of the thefts have been reported in the north end of town and the thieves have come prepared with burglary tools.
“There is an emerging trend,” said Turlock Police spokesman Officer Mayra Lewis. “These aren’t crimes of opportunity. They come prepared and are fishing for these more expensive bikes.”
In some cases the Turlock Police Department has been able to make arrests, but because the crimes are misdemeanors and the jail is dealing with overcrowding, the alleged perpetrators are usually back at it again within a day or two.
In at least three of the cases one Turlock man — Vimal Tamkal — has been identified as a suspect.
Tamkal, 31, was arrested Oct. 1 after he was seen tampering with bikes locked up at Pitman High School. He and two other men he was with were on the school grounds while class was in session, but left after being spotted by an instructor, Lewis said.
The school resource officer located the trio about a block away and found Tamkal in possession of bolt and wire cutters, pliers and a bike lock. Tamkal was arrested for attempted theft and possession of burglary tools. Gilbert Giron, who was with Tamkal, was cited for conspiracy. The third man was not charged with anything.
A few weeks later Tamkal was again taken into custody on charges relating to a bike theft.
According to the police report, Tamkal was seen in the parking lot outside In Shape health club on Countryside Drive removing the front tire from a locked up bike. By doing so, he was able to take the frame, Lewis said.
“Locking the front tire doesn’t stop them,” Lewis said. “They can remove it easily and then take the frame.”
Staff from the gym followed Tamkal and saw him toss the frame once he realized he was being trailed. Police were called to the scene and Tamkal was booked on suspicion of possessing burglary tools.
Once again, it was just a few weeks later that Tamkal was again the prime suspect in a bicycle theft, but this time it involved a home invasion robbery.
The incident was reported to the Turlock Police Department around 12:43 a.m. Nov. 7. The victim told police that two men kicked down the door of his home in the 600 block of Wayside Drive and ordered him to stay on the couch or they would hurt him.
The suspects, later identified as Tamkal and Giron, demanded his bicycle and once they had it in their possession, they left the home.
Patrol units happened to be in the area and quickly located the two men with the stolen bike. Both were taken into custody and Tamkal was charged with first-degree robbery, according to court records.
Tamkal remains free on bail.
To lessen the odds of having a bicycle stolen, the police department recommends locking it to a fixed object in an area that is visible to the most people. The police department also suggests registering bicycles with the department or marking it with something significant that is not easily spotted and removed. Remember to lock bikes up at home and don’t leave them in an open garage unattended.