San Jose police uncover fencing operation, seize $100K worth of stolen bikes

A six-month-long investigation in San Jose led to the arrest of a key figure in a bicycle theft ring.

The San Jose Police Department launched "Operation Flat Tire" in response to a spike in theft and crime during the pandemic.

Authorities said the operation closed in on Jose Guadalupe Barba, the head of an underground bicycle fencing ring in San Jose.

Officers served a search warrant at Barba's home where they recovered $100,000 worth of stolen bikes, construction tools, and miscellaneous other goods.

"I was happy to see the news, not only that they caught somebody but they're also making an effort to shut down some of these fencing operations," says Lloyd Cha, who oversees the San Jose Stolen Bicycle Group on Facebook.

He says they've noticed an uptick in trouble. So has Bike Index, a nonprofit which registers bikes and tracks thefts. They say the pandemic has made things much worse.

"This is the busiest we've ever been. This is the most people we've ever had get robbed, the most bikes we've ever registered, the most theft we've ever seen," says Bryan Hance, co-founder of

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In 2019, Bike Index registered 10077 stolen bikes within 25 miles of San Jose. In 2019 they registered 11378. And in 2020, that number jumped to 18,594. Of those, Bike Index helped recover 1843 of them.

In 2021, so far, they have registered 8685 stolen bikes within 25 miles of San Jose, and of those, 782 of them were recovered with help from Bike Index.

"We track a lot of these guys and these guys are making more money than I do. And it's really depressing that it often takes months and months if not years for law enforcement to track them down and deal with them," said Hance.

The surge in thefts has put local bike shops on alert. Several have been hit in recent months.

At Mike's Bikes in San Jose they advise everyone to be more cautious. That means watching where you store your bike and upgrading your old cable locks.

"With the right tool it's like cutting through butter with a hot knife, it's easy. So you want to make it as difficult as possible," said General Manager Ben Gomez Villafane.

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They say demand for bikes is high and supply is low. And even with this arrest, there are plenty of other would-be thieves still out there.

"Just be prepared. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best," said Gomez Villafane.

Experts say you should hold on to your proof of purchase and your serial number. And they say registering with a place like Bike Index is a good idea.

Authorities are trying to track down the owners of the seized property in San Jose.

Anyone with information should contact SJPD Financial Crimes Unit at 408-277-4521.