East Village Bike Shop Manager Speaks on NYPD Bust

Yesterday we reported that police have shut down the Busy Bee bike shop in the East Village for criminal possession of stolen property. In a phone call with Streetsblog last night, store manager Joe Malewich said he's not sure what his staff could have done to prevent the three arrests which resulted in the store's closure.

Officers from the Ninth Precinct first came to Busy Bee in June of 2008 to buy bikes which they said would be used in special operations targeting bike theft, Malewich told Streetsblog. "They bought two bikes for $350, and we donated two bikes, so they got four bikes for $350, and they wrote us a check," he explained. "Then strange things started happening quite a while later."

Undercover officers started dropping by the store in October 2009, attempting to sell back the same bikes the precinct purchased. Store workers bought back the bikes, Malewich said, unaware of what had happened fourteen months prior.

According to Malewich, the NYPD affidavit states that undercover officers made it clear to Busy Bee employees that they were trying to unload stolen bikes, an assertion that he disputes. "What bike shop employee would say, 'Oh, okay, I'll buy the bike you just clearly described to me as stolen'?" he asked.

Since October 2009, three of Malewich's employees have been arrested for buying bikes from undercover officers. Two have since been cleared in court, Malewich said, but a third, arrested last Friday, still has a court date coming up.

Malewich contested the NYPD's grounds for arrest. "In one instance, the undercover officers claimed they described the bike they were selling as a 'hot bike,'" he said. "What bike lover hasn't used the term 'hot bike' to describe a bike that catches their eye, or that they're trying to sell?"

When officers from the Ninth Precinct came in to the Busy Bee with a search warrant on October 29, Malewich said they failed to turn up a single bike listed as stolen.

Streetsblog has a request in with NYPD to speak to Allison Arenson, the department's attorney handling the case.

Malewich added that after bikes are purchased, the store's policy is to put them in the front window, or on the sidewalk, so that if somebody has lost their bike, they'll see it and be able to get information about how the store acquired the bike. "We were being as careful as we could," he said.