The Austin Chronicle

The Scooters Are Not for Crimes

Scooter and cellphone data lead to Austin teen's arrest for bank robbery

By Mike Clark-Madison, February 1, 2019, News

Fans of criminal ineptitude the world over (literally; this story got picked up in Poland) chortled last Thursday as an Austin teen was arrested for bank robbery after fleeing the scene of the heist on an electric scooter. Not immediately, though; it took Austin Police investigators a month to track down 19-year-old Luca Mangiarano after he allegedly produced a note demanding "all your 100's and 50's in an envelope" at the BBVA Compass branch at Sixth and Guadalupe on Dec. 18.

A bank employee saw a man resembling the suspect departing the area on an e-scooter (on the sidewalk); APD was able to obtain surveillance video that identified the device as a Jump scooter, Uber's dockless mobility brand. The ride-hailing titan has a team of retired cops that works directly with local police; upon receiving a warrant, they identified the specific trip via GPS records and turned over Mangiarano's account info. Video captured later at the teen's apartment matched the bank footage, and his cell phone data also placed him near the branch at the time of the heist.

It's not a best practice to use third-party devices and apps that track one's location in the commission of one's crimes, but the detective work involved in cracking the Mangiarano case paired the data mining with more old-fashioned criminological techniques. Without an eyewitness and video, Mangiarano's fateful and ill-advised scooter ride wouldn't have been discernible from the literally thousands of such trips (according to the Austin Transportation Depart­ment's dockless-mobility open data portal) originating near Sixth and Guadalupe on Dec. 18 alone. "This was a learning experience for me and the robbery unit," APD Detective Jason Chiappardi told The Washington Post. "We had never had a scooter involved in a robbery." Austin's not alone, though; the Post reports that Bird and Lime devices have been involved in theft cases in Baltimore, Indianapolis, and St. Louis, none yet resulting in an arrest.

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