Behind the Mansfield Law Enforcement Center and a cyclone fence topped with curls of razor wire, nine likely stolen bicycles wait to be reconnected with their owners.But the more likely fate of the bikes – which range from a kiddie trail bike to a very clean 21-speed roadster, and exhibit all the colors of a sad rainbow – is to be sent away to police auction.That doesn’t discourage 75-year-old super volunteer Zeno Pfau, to whom the police department happily turned over the bike duties about eight months ago.He’s trying to get the word out that people whose bikes have disappeared should contact the police.“We want to get these bikes back to their rightful owners,” said Pfau (pronounced “FOW”). “That’s certainly a better option.”The bike program is just another task for Pfau, who puts in about 90 volunteer hours a month helping keep records and manage contents of the police property and evidence room, a free job he picked up at least seven years ago.He also patrols the city at least 16 hours a month as a member of the police department’s Citizens on Patrol (COP) program, and he lends a hand here and there for charitable causes.Pfau was named Mansfield Police Volunteer of the Year in 2009.“It’s a great help,” said Police Chief Gary Fowler. “My requirement is that the COP people are designed to be out on the street. He’s doing additional.”Volunteer spiritPfau served 20 years in the Navy, retiring as an intelligence commander. He also worked almost 30 years in a second profession, serving as a referee for national and international tennis association tournaments, including 10 years as a chair and line umpire at Wimbledon.Retirement in 2005 was brief.“I told my wife, ‘I can’t handle this staying at home.’” So he signed up for the Mansfield Citizens Police Academy, a program that gives people 36 hours of classroom and in-the-field instruction on how the police department works, and after graduating he joined its alumni association. He then joined Citizens on Patrol, which required an additional 160 hours of training.Pfau feels especially qualified for his duties in the property room, including the bike responsibilities.“It takes somebody who’s really anal to do this job. It’s a details-oriented job,” he said, noting lots of paperwork, “and making sure that nothing is destroyed that needs to be kept.”His immediate supervisor, property and evidence technician Vincent Hunter, appreciates the relief.“He’s been assisting me because I’m overwhelmed,” Hunter said. “The police department is not in the storage business.”Disappearing bikesPolice don’t know if all the recovered bikes are stolen because sometimes kids get distracted, drop their bikes and wander off on foot.“Then homeowners or businesses will call and say, ‘This bike has been here for 10 days,’ and the police officer goes and picks it up,” Pfau said.Pfau has handled 40 bikes since he’s been involved, and 30 of those were put up for auction at www.propertyroom.com, a police auction site used by many police departments to get rid of unclaimed merchandise after 90 days. “The one time that a bike got returned, the people actually called the police department,” he said.That should be the first step, officials say. Nationwide, even though nearly half of stolen bikes are recovered by law enforcement, only 5 percent are returned to their owners, according to BicycleLaw.com, the website of a law firm that specializes in biking issues. Before Hunter and Pfau will release a bike, the inquirer has to give a moderately detailed description, including brand, color and any features or add-ons like a water bottle clamp or storage pouch.They would require a serial number, but they believe too few bike owners make the highly recommended effort to record the serial number – and keep the purchase receipt and a few photos of the bike.To prevent theft, the owner should always keep the bike locked every time it will be left alone.“Sometimes people just see it sitting there without being locked and decide to take it on a joy ride,” Pfau said. “And then they just drop if off somewhere."
Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641 Twitter: @Kaddmann