Police: Thieves stealing ATVS, dirt bikes, more from SE Pa. homes after items listed for sale on social media
HILLTOWN, TOWNSHIP, Pa. - Police say they are seeing an increase of thefts of ATVs, dirt bikes and motorcycles from homes across Southeastern Pennsylvania, specifically targeting vehicles listed for sale on social media sites like Facebook Marketplace.
Hayden Flanagan says six hours after communicating with a potential buyer who agreed to meet him in a public spot, his 2022 BMW motorcycle was taken from his Perkasie home.
Surveillance video shows a white van driving by the home three separate times around 2:00 a.m. on March 17th, he says, and the video cuts out because the crew put an Amazon box over the cameras.
He saved up for years to purchase the dream bike, but bills added up, so he put it on Facebook Marketplace to see what he could make back.
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"I’m in college. I work part-time, it’s a struggle," says Flanagan. "It’s just a huge violation to our property and just our sanity."
Hilltown Township Police, investigating the theft of Flanagan’s bike, say there are crews coming out of New Jersey, Delaware, New York State and Philadelphia to steal the vehicles.
They noticed the pattern starting at the end of 2021 and had at least two thefts in this month alone, after victims posted their vehicles for sale on sites like Facebook Marketplace. Last weekend, someone stole a UTV from a different township home, and Hilltown Township Police say they were in touch with detectives from Limerick Township this week about a theft they are investigating.
They say thieves often ask sellers for videos of the vehicles running.
"Some of these videos will have metadata that can show location information, some of the Facebook profiles that the victims are using aren’t locked down so they list where they are living, or in the background of the video they will actually get identifying information," says Detective Louis Bell.
Detective Bell says the thieves often use vans or U-hauls with stolen or fake license plates. They believe the groups are re-selling some vehicles overseas, but mostly domestically, or they just use them for fun.
"Many of these vehicles are ending up in Philly in these marauding packs of dirt bikes and ATVs that are just running down rampant throughout," he says. "These are criminals, who know how far they go. We know for a fact some of these crews are armed."
Flanagan just wants his bike back. His family set up a GoFundMe to help with the loss.
"It’s extremely, extremely tough, definitely could really use that money right now," he says.
Police urge anyone planning to sell an item to not give out or show any personal information. If a potential buyer wants to see the item, police recommend meeting them at a safe, public place in person with the item and to not hand over a video of it.
Hilltown Township Police say they are working with departments in neighboring counties seeing a similar uptick in thefts to share information. They want anyone with information on the thefts to report it.