Sheriff’s office offers first-time bike registration to help find stolen property

Belinda and Bill Brasgalla of Apollo Beach have their bicycle registered by Deputy Phil Merkle at the Gardenville Recreation Center Saturday, Jan. 19 on the first-ever sheriff’s office bike registration day. Deputies are hoping registration will help recover lost and stolen bicycles in the future. Penny Fletcher Photo

Belinda and Bill Brasgalla of Apollo Beach have their bicycle registered by Deputy Phil Merkle at the Gardenville Recreation Center Saturday, Jan. 19 on the first-ever sheriff’s office bike registration day. Deputies are hoping registration will help recover lost and stolen bicycles in the future. Penny Fletcher Photo

By PENNY FLETCHER

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY — Four recreation centers around the county were the site of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office’s latest effort to see that stolen property finds its way back to owners.
Saturday, Jan. 19 the department rolled out deputies at four locations around the county, two of which were in this newspaper’s coverage area. Gardenville Recreation Center in Gibsonton and Sadie Park in Brandon, along with two north Tampa locations, hosted bicycle registrations between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

In a telephone interview the following day, Deputy Chris DePolis, coordinator of the team that organized the event, said about 150 bicycles were registered at the four sites, 40 of which were in Gibsonton.

“Bicycle theft is a growing problem in all our communities,” said Deputy Phil Merkle, who supervised the Gardenville registration. “By registering your bicycle, you are helping prevent theft and also increasing the chances of getting it back if it is ever lost or stolen. We keep them (lost and stolen items) in the evidence room and if a number checks out, we can notify the owner and see that they get their property back.”

Deputy Merkle has been with the sheriff’s office 14 years and is currently the Community Resource Deputy for the Gibsonton-Apollo Beach area. He says getting the serial numbers off the bikes will be a big step forward in seeing that they are returned.

“We’re getting ready to have these bikes fixed and repainted and start riding again,” said Belinda Brasgalla. She and her husband Bill brought their bicycles in their car from Apollo Beach.

Others, including Bonifacio Salgado who lives in Ruskin, also came from surrounding towns to get their bicycles registered.

James Horne was on site to help at Gardenville along with Recreation Center Director Dave Ramirez. Horne has been with the sheriff’s office 31 years. “Bicycle theft is growing,” he said. “This is one good deterrent.”

Future bicycle registration dates and times will be posted on the sheriff’s office website http://www.hcso.tampa.fl.us.

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