How Local Cops Broke the E-Bike Case: ‘I Floored It,’ Captain Says


Capt. Neil Zuber.

By Carol Tannenhauser

On Tuesday night, officers of the 20th Precinct apprehended two alleged robbers who have been terrorizing electric bike — e-bike — riders on the Upper West Side for the past several weeks. Part sting, part high-speed chase, the story of their capture and arrest was told in detail to WSR by Captain Neil Zuber (shown above at a pre-pandemic meeting), commander of the 20th Precinct. Here’s how Captain Zuber described the events.

We had a lot of e-bikes being stolen, not just here, but all around the city. Delivery people use them in large part for delivering food, but they’re very popular with others as well. They’re worth a couple of thousand dollars each.

In the beginning, they stole the bikes when they were left unattended. Then, as they got more brazen, they began pushing people off the bikes, beating them up, and taking the bikes. At least four of our victims were treated in the hospital because they were injured in violent attacks.

Several weeks ago we started realizing a pattern was developing. Victims were talking about two people jumping out of a car. Some were saying a black BMW and some were giving us partial license plate numbers, but it wasn’t enough for our computer system to track.

Then, on Tuesday, September 1st, at about 2 p.m., another person was robbed. Two people jumped out of a BMW, pushed him off his bike, and took the bike. This victim was able to get his phone out and record one of the people who robbed him, but the key thing he did was get a clear picture of the license plate. Using our license plate readers around the city, we were able to track the car as it went to the Bronx, over the 145th Street Bridge. We radioed ahead, but apparently they didn’t go home. So, we waited.

At about 10 o’clock that night, we got an email alert that the car had just come across the bridge from the Bronx and was entering Manhattan. We knew they were coming to the Upper West Side to go shopping. Immediately we sent our people to the area where they always hit us: the west side of the precinct, near Riverside Drive. We put everyone who was working out there. We filled the west side of the precinct with eyes. We also told them, if you see a delivery person, shadow them, because they’re targets and maybe we’ll find them that way.

Murphy’s Law being what it is, that night, for the first time, they did a robbery on the east side of the precinct. The first police car got there about ten minutes after it happened. I jumped into my car. By that time I knew we were behind them. They were already making their way to the bridge. So, I floored it. I put my lights on and headed north on the Henry Hudson Parkway.

I got up to the bridge and there was an unmarked car sitting there. It turned out to be two officers from the 20th Precinct. Without exaggeration, I just had time to put my car in park and turn my headlights off, when the BMW crossed directly in front of us. One of us pulled behind it, the other in front, and we stopped them right there, 100 yards onto the bridge. They were so surprised to see us that there was absolutely no fight. They surrendered right there and we were able to arrest them.

That is not the end of the story. Captain Zuber explained that they still don’t know where the bikes are being sold. “We know they’re not using them just to joy ride,” he said. “Now our investigation is taking us to who are the people who are buying them for resale? Who is driving this cottage, black-market industry that’s going on citywide?”

You could hear the excitement in Captain Zuber’s voice. “I have to tell you,” he said, “it was so good going out there and doing the hands-on police work again — so much better than sitting in on Zoom meetings,” he added, laughing. “To have that positive outcome was great. We could have handed it off, but we wanted to be there ourselves to make sure it got done.“

He turned to the question of an alleged “police slowdown.”

“It couldn’t be farther from the truth,” he contended. “There’s no slowdown. These officers want to go out and do the job they signed up to do. This is just proving it.”

NEWS | 52 comments | permalink
    1. young_man! says:

      Good job.
      To answer the question of who is buying these bikes – probably someone in search of a cheap electric bike already outfitted as a delivery bike.
      Even though these are expensive they generally don’t have serial numbers and ownership isn’t registered in any official database so they are pretty much untraceable.

      • Upper West Side Cyclist says:

        They most certainly do have serial numbers. Some bikes are registered in a central NYPD database. One of my bikes is, but I havent registered my other one. It is tough to trace, but not impossible.

    2. BLM ALM says:

      Good job! I wonder if there are cheap homing devices that can be put onto the bikes, to track where they end up.

    3. Heidi says:

      So glad they caught them and disgusts me how they were targeting delivery drivers on bikes who are just trying to make a living.

    4. Chris says:

      Congratulations and thanks!!!

    5. UWSWasp says:

      Thank you! Well done and an exciting read, I hope you find out how theyre being sold and bust up the whole crime ring. Kudos and thank you again.

    6. Eric J says:

      One would think that with the technology available today that they would incorporate a proximity sensor into the bike with the owners phone so it would shut down and lock out when it gets too far away from the registered owners phone. This would make resale much less inviting and tracking much easier. JAT

    7. Rose says:

      NYC has the best police force in the world. Thank you all for protecting us.

    8. Lisa says:

      Excellent work – I love to hear how crimes get solved and the Murphy’s law comment was pretty funny.

    9. BLM ALM says:

      eBikes are illegal in New York, shockingly

    10. julio says:

      Thank you, the community, thank you for all the work that you do good work

    11. Donald Bartholomew says:

      Great job them things are alot of money I no I own one! Now its up to the judge to teach them that its not profitable to steal. Nobody likes a thief!

    12. Jones says:

      What happened after they were apprehended? We’re they issued a bench summons and released?

    13. CrankyPants says:

      Congratulations and thank you NYPD! Helping keep essential workers and all of us safe. (Now if only the people who get arrested would actually be punished, but that is another story for our current negligent lawmakers…)

    14. Dave Tee Vee says:

      Bravo and much thanks to the NYPD for a job well done! One takeaway I’ve got from this is that it seems that BMW’s are being used in crimes on the UWS frequently. In that drug bust recently, the police siezed a BMW along with lots of cash and drugs. So, we now know that some criminals come to our neighborhood in luxury vehicles to commit crimes. Has it always been like this or is this a new opportunity for crooks to get in and out fast during these strange pandemic times? Does crime pay for these BMW driving violent thugs? Will they be back to attack us soon?

      • Lisa says:

        I’ve noticed an increased police presence around the 72nd St. subway station and Fairway area and it is much appreciated. I think it makes a difference. I saw officers a couple of weeks ago near Fairway attending to a man who was clearly having a psychotic break shouting at the top of his lungs. I was impressed by their calm because I would not want to deal with that guy.

        • Capt Neil Zuber says:

          Thank you for commending them. Dealing with emotionally disturbed people is one of the most difficult aspects of their job. I’m glad to hear they performed so well.

          • Claire Belle says:

            Well done on cracking this case! Sounds like a hands on situation. You have a good crew of Detectives. Mejia is one of the most underrated ones and deserves far more credit.

      • Boris says:

        Fairway now has an armed security guard.

    15. Kathleen Casey says:

      There is a two man team that uses a white van. Beat up a delivery guy on W 68th Street and took his bike. The plate on the white van looked like paper. Delivery guy couldn’t report as he is illegal.

      • Capt Neil Zuber says:

        The NYPD will never ask a crime victim’s immigration status. Nobody should ever be afraid to report a crime, and we will always investigate to our fullest ability. Please encourage him to report this.

    16. Joey says:

      Good work Capt. Zuber you should be in the Anti Crime Team.
      BROKEN WINDOWS POLICING IS THE REAL COMMUNITY POLICING

    17. Kwame Whittaker says:

      Great work!!!

    18. Mark Moore says:

      That’s great and thank you. Now let’s catch some of the people who’ve been shooting people.

    19. Pinto Raheem says:

      Agree that there should be a technology fix. Try taking a COSTCO shopping cart beyond the COSTCO property and the wheels lock up. Seems like something that could be used on the e-bikes.

    20. Tom Holmes says:

      Well played Sir!

    21. Carlos says:

      Thanks to the NYPD for its fine work – you are greatly appreciated by the citizens if not by the mayor.

      Could you please let us know what they are being charged with and what ends up happening with those charges? Hopefully all of this hard work results in serious charges and not having these criminals return to the street to resume their crimes.

    22. Nicholas L says:

      Always register your serial numbers!

    23. LR says:

      Great job. I truly appreciate and admire the hard work done by you and your police officers of all ranks.

    24. Trivell Monroe says:

      I have ebikes thanks so much… Go good guys

    25. Micheal O'Cahan says:

      Bravo. Needs to be in a movie. People need to see real police in action — protecting the rest of us.

    26. Cynthia Kammann says:

      Bicycles have serial numbers. Register your bikes.
      Check out bikeindex.org

    27. UWCider says:

      Thank you NYPD. FU De Blasio.

    28. Leif Laudamus says:

      Some of the higher end e-bikes are installed with what is essentially a Lo-jack system. It would be nice to see wider use, with police backup when a stolen bike is found.

    29. Susan says:

      Sincerest thanks to our NYPD police officers! We greatly appreciate everything you do, every day, for all of us!
      Love you all… Back the Blue!

    30. Larry K says:

      Way to go Capt Zuber! Getting ones hands dirty (so to speak) feels good, especially when it results in success. Cudos to the 20th. Perhaps all e-bikes should be registered with license plates likes motorcycles.

    31. Christi says:

      Hooray! Another good job by the 20th precinct! Thank you!

    32. Robert Crenshaw says:

      THANK YOU !!!
      Please continue to keep us safe!

    33. Laurie Kuslansky says:

      BRAVO 20th PDU! Thanks for all your good work.

    34. Rita says:

      Thanks to our wonderful NYC police force!
      Well done!!! Please keep these guys locked away for awhile.

    35. CB says:

      Good job, NYPD. Thank you.

      I realize it’s a fraught summer for police politics.

      Can we please raise our voices and thank the men and women who do their job bravely to protect us? We can cheer them while also ask that there be changes to ensure that no more Black people are wrongly shot or killed.

      What has made me so uncomfortable about the BLM street protests— not to mention the entirely destructive and unnecessary looting and protest violence—is that the protestors act like there are not noble, hard-working cops out that protect our city — including protecting the most vulnerable, like delivery men.

      We need our good cops — and then city should go back to funding our good cops while create real change to root out the bad.

      Our bounce back from the pandemic depends on it.

      Thank you for your hard work and courage, Captain Zuber and fellow members of the 20th precinct.

    36. UWS Lady says:

      Capt. Zuber and your police force, thank you for all that you do. You all are much appreciated.

    37. Tonya Owens says:

      Thank you. So proud of you.

    38. William Pearlman says:

      Great story. The problem comes next. Vance doesn’t charge anybody with anything anymore. I doubt that the perpetrators are even being held.

    39. Tara Black says:

      This was a thrilling read! Thanks for all your hard work. I saw some police officers stationed on Broadway and 82nd yesterday afternoon and appreciated their presence. Not that anything bad was going on, but it was nice to feel like they were watching over the neighborhood.

    40. Chris says:

      Problem is they will be released and not prosecuted so this was all a waste of time.

    41. ella says:

      Great job by NYPD. But, alas, they are probably back out on the street terrorizing bikers once again.