Man shot by police during South Hills chase suspected in spate of bike thefts
A man accused of stealing high-end bicycles and fleeing from police in the South Hills this week could be behind other bike thefts, Pittsburgh police said on Friday.
Detectives obtained warrants charging Richard Desabetino, 33, with the theft of a $2,500 bicycle from a Downtown parking garage and a $1,500 bike from a Mount Washington apartment garage. They suspect him in at least one other bicycle theft.
Detective Carl Morosetti said at least 40 bicycles were reported stolen in the past six weeks in the city and on the University of Pittsburgh campus, which has a separate police force. He said the value of the bikes ranges from $800 to $1,500. He predicted reports of bike thefts will drop with Desabetino in jail.
“I think it’s going to be a considerable change, with him being incarcerated,” Morosetti said.
Desabetino, hospitalized with a gunshot wound, did not appear to have an attorney in court records.
He fled Baldwin police officers when they attempted to serve an arrest warrant on Desabetino’s girlfriend, Amy Calabrese, 31, on Wednesday, for allegedly conspiring with Desabetino to steal a bicycle. When officers arrived at her house, Desabetino fled amid gunfire, injuring a police officer with his car. Police captured him in the Grandview Farms area of Bethel Park. Desabetino was shot in the back.
Allegheny County police on Friday charged Desabetino with aggravated assault, robbery of a motor vehicle, theft, fleeing police, reckless endangerment and other crimes.
Bike Pittsburgh Executive Director Scott Bricker said the organization last summer helped recover six stolen bicycles through posts and pictures on social media.
“We have a high success rate,” Bricker said. “It’s because people have each other’s backs. It’s a really awful feeling to get your bike stolen, or part of your bike stolen.”
Detectives from the city’s Zone 2 district covering Downtown, Lawrenceville and the Hill District, recently confiscated five bikes, Cmdr. Eric Holmes said. Twelve bikes were reported stolen from neighborhoods in the zone in the past six weeks — and police recovered seven, two of which were reported stolen in the zone, Holmes said.
Craig Morrow, owner of Bicycle Heaven, a North Side bike museum and shop, said he reported a bicycle he thought was stolen to city police, gave them information on the seller and reunited the bike with the owner on Friday. He said it was the second time the suspected bicycle thief, who has not been charged, sold him a stolen bike.
“We want to make sure we do things right,” Morrow said. “I don’t want to be with a stolen bike.”
Morrow encouraged bicyclists to take photos of serial numbers on their bikes. Bricker recommended registering bikes with Bike Pittsburgh’s anti-theft program, which records contact information, serial numbers and photos of owners with bikes.
Morosetti cautioned bicyclists against leaving bikes on porches or in obvious locations. He said even sturdy U-locks don’t deter thieves.
“Even the really strong ones, they can use a grinding tool; they can grind that off in a second,” Morosetti said.
Cmdr. Timothy O’Connor, who oversees the Zone 5 police district in the East End, said bicycle thefts are up in East Liberty, Highland Park, Bloomfield and Friendship this summer.
“We’ve made some arrests, and it’s slowed it, but there are still thieves out there,” O’Connor said.
Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.