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Bike Shop Owner Cleared After Massive June Raid By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday November 11, 2005

In a massive show of force on June 16, Berkeley police officers served a search warrant on Karim Cycle at 2800 Telegraph Ave., drawing the attention of neighbors and press whom they summoned to the scene. 

But no criminal charges were ever filed against the proprietor and all but one of the bikes have now been returned to the store. 

After blocking off the sidewalk with yellow crime-scene tape, 20 or so uniformed officers and evidence technicians hauled scores of bicycles out onto the sidewalk as they started marking down serial numbers and looking for bikes that lacked them. 

As pedestrians and neighbors gawked, police contacted the media, providing sound bites for the evening news and good photos and good copy for the next morning’s papers. 

By the time the day had ended, police had hauled 17 bikes off to their evidence lockers, one that police spokesperson Officer Joe Okies said had been confirmed stolen, and the other 16 with what he described as illegally removed, altered or obliterated serial numbers. 

Within hours, word and images of the raid had been posted in the bicycles-for-sale section of Craigslist. 

But as owner Adlai Karim explains, “I was never arrested; no charges were filed, and they returned all but one of my bicycles.” 

Berkeley police spokesperson Officer Joe Okies confirmed the return of the cycles and the decision of the district attorney’s office to reject the charges. 

John Adams, the prosecutor who rejected the case for prosecution, was not available for comment because he has since retired from the agency. 

Karim acknowledges that his shop—like any other dealing in used bicycles—may have purchased stolen bikes. But, he said, that’s because few owners record their bike’s serial numbers, and even fewer report them to the state—leaving no way for a shop-owner to know with certainty whether or not a machine was stolen. 

In addition, registration requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The city of Berkeley no longer issues bicycle licenses, and police recommend that owners go to UC Berkeley, which does. 

Further complicating the issue was the fact that different manufacturers stamp the numbers on different parts of the machines, unlike with cars, where stamps must be located in specific places. 

Police and Karim both advise bicycle buyers to write down the serial numbers of cycles they buy and keep the numbers and the receipt in a safe place so they can be reported in the event of a theft. 

Karim said he buys many of his bicycles from charities and garage sales, adding that he now reports to the state both the serial numbers and where he bought them. 

He said he still has a claim against the Berkeley Police Department for damage to his cycles during what he called “a very destructive search.” He said the city has made a partial settlement offer.