Have you had a bicycle stolen in Buffalo recently? It seems that your chances of a reunion have gone up.
Buffalo Police recovered 88 bikes Monday night while executing a search warrant for narcotics at a house in the 500 block of Plymouth Avenue.
Shield, the Buffalo Police K-9 formerly partnered with the late Craig E. Lehner, helped discover the bikes when the dog tracked one suspect to the basement of a home. The subject was arrested, and the police found what they believe to be stolen bikes stacked up in the basement.
Buffalo Police Capt. Jeff Rinaldo said that this is the largest bicycle recovery he's seen at the department.
"In terms of a recovery like this, where we can put this many bicycles that we believe are stolen, in one location, it's pretty rare," said Rinaldo.
The bikes are in police possession at their building at 74 Franklin St. as they continue their investigation and begin processing and taking inventory of the bikes.
A photo of the seizure of the bikes, posted on Facebook Monday night by Yann Spindler, was shared more than 3,000 times and drew scores of comments.
"It's personal," Rinaldo said. "Wherever you live, your kids come home from riding their bikes, and the next thing you know, the bike's gone. It's an invasion of their privacy and it's not fair. ... It's going to draw a lot of public interest, and I don't blame people."
The stolen bikes came in all varieties: Adult bikes for street use, children's bikes, rugged mountain bikes with wider treads and some bicycles that appeared decades-old with thin tires.
"We have young kids' bikes up to what appear to be older-person bikes," Rinaldo said. "If it's left unattended, there's a good chance it can get grabbed."
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Buffalo police made two arrests in connection with the narcotics warrant, which was executed at about 5:30 p.m., as heroin, cocaine and marijuana as well as a handgun were seized. Buffalo police are not releasing the names of the suspects, who are 24 and 33 years old. Both were charged with criminal possession of narcotics, criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of stolen property.
Shield, a beloved figure in Western New York following of Lehner's death a little more than a year ago, helped find a suspect who was hiding in the basement. The 5-year-old German shepherd has remained part of the canine squad and has seen action continuously over the past year.
"Shield has been working right along side all the other K-9s," Rinaldo said. "He's been involved in numerous other searches. This is kind of happenstance that he comes across all the bicycles, but it's great work."
Shield will be at a Wednesday evening vigil to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Lehner, which occurred Oct. 13, 2017, during a police dive team practice in the Niagara River at the Bird Island Pier at Broderick Park. The vigil, held by the Police Benevolent Association, will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at Broderick Park. City police officers will informally gather in the park and they have invited the public to join them.
"I think you will see a large presence not only from police officers but from the community, as we saw last year at the same time," Rinaldo said of the vigil. "It's a very sad time for the police department ... but it's a time to honor Craig and his family and just remember the great sacrifice he made."
Rinaldo said Monday night's search warrant was a result of some "citizen complaints" about the house.
"Nobody wants to live with a drug dealer on their street, nobody wants to have a house on their street where there's a lot of activities that appears to be criminal in nature," said Rinaldo. "We do everything we can to bring an end to those operations. This is one of those cases where neighbors just got together and had enough and we were very happy to put an end of it."
Rinaldo said the process of indexing the bicycles may take as long as two months. He said if people who have had a bike stolen recently have not yet reported it to their local police agency, they should do so. Rinaldo said it is not known how many of the bikes are from the city or the suburbs.
"We are in the process now of beginning the very lengthy and time-consuming process of indexing these bicycles," said Rinaldo. "I know that our office has started to receive numerous calls today who unfortunately had a bike stolen this summer.
"We will be going through all of our police reports in an attempt to match up the bicycles that we've recovered with the various larcenies. I would ask that the public be patient. This is going to be a very lengthy process, but the good news is we obviously put a bike ring out of operation and we recovered tens of thousands of dollars worth of these stolen bicycles."