Police have broken up a ring of thieves who were allegedly stealing bicycles from Madrid’s public rental service BiciMAD and selling the scrap metal across the city.
According to sources close to the investigation, nine people have been arrested over the past week in a joint operation conducted by the National and Madrid municipal police forces.
Nine people have been arrested in a joint operation by the National and Madrid police
The suspects, whose ages range between 23 and 51, are thought to have stolen at least 400 bikes; an average of eight per week.
Authorities believed that they used an abandoned building in the Madrid neighborhood of Comillas to chop up the bikes.
The alleged gang is also said to have stolen clothes for the needy left in street depositories.
The detentions mark the first time the authorities have arrested an organized group that was dedicated to stealing from the city’s rental bicycle service.
Earlier this month, BiciMAD announced that it was on the verge of bankruptcy because of a rash of vandalism, including the high number of bicycles that were being destroyed or stolen.
The BiciMAD service debuted in June 2014 with much fanfare made by then-Mayor Ana Botella, of the Popular Party (PP).
The investigation began several weeks ago when authorities received information about what appeared to be a pattern in the way the bicycles were being taken. Officers began to trace the bikes using GPS locators.
According to investigators, the suspects would chop up the bicycles piece-by-piece and sell the metal to junk shops, where it is purchased based on weight.
Authorities found about a dozen bicycles in the abandoned building with an estimated worth of around €24,000. Official sources said that the 400 bikes taken would have cost BiciMAD around €500,000.
As the investigation continues, authorities are also trying to determine whether this criminal gang has also been involved in stealing copper from public facilities.
English version by Martin Delfín