More bicycles stolen on campus in September than any other month

by Alan Butterworth

Seventeen cases of bicycle theft were reported on campus last week, according to police records.

The estimated cost of the stolen bicycles ranged from $50 to $850.

“September is our biggest month for bike thefts,” said Deputy Police Chief for the University Police Department Steve Johnson.

Last September, University police reported 63 cases of bicycle theft, Johnson said.

Only in a small proportion of cases – approximately 5 percent – is the stolen bicycle recovered, Johnson said.

First-year entrepreneurial studies student Nick Goldstein’s bicycle was stolen from a bicycle rack outside Vincent Hall. He said he believes using a cable lock was partly to blame for the theft.

“The police told me it was better to buy a U-lock, because they can break through either one, but at least the U-lock buys you a little bit more time.

“For my next bike, I’d for sure buy a U-lock,” Goldstein said.

Despite reports that suggest the U-shaped locks might not be secure – recent reports show the locks can be opened with a ballpoint pen – students said they feel it is the best way of locking their bicycles.

First-year student Afton McNitt’s bicycle was stolen outside the St. Paul Student Center. She used a U-shaped lock to secure it after being told at her undergraduate orientation that this was the best option, she said.

“They said that it was the hardest to break into, because (the thief) would have to cut through it,” she said.

Johnson said, “If you see people that don’t look like they fit in looking at several bikes on the rack, something is wrong. Call the police, and we’ll be glad to check them out.”

Johnson said that in the majority of cases, students do not keep track of their serial numbers, which makes tracing stolen property more difficult.

First-year student Becky Yun said she thinks the University should have security guards or cameras in front places students have bicycles.

She also said she thought the University should supply more bicycle lockers for students.

The University has been considering many of these options, said Steve Sander executive assistant and campus bicycle coordinator at the University Parking and Transportation Services.

However, “it’s always a cost issue,” he said.

On any given day, more than 5,000 bicycles are on campus.

To reduce the likelihood of becoming a bicycle-theft victim, Sanders suggests that students use two locks.

“Use a U-lock and a cable lock, because, typically, it takes different kinds of tools to open both locks,” he said.

He also encourages students to license their bikes.

“If they do get recovered, there’s a way to return it to them,” Sanders said.

The license costs $10 and is valid for two years. Students can buy it at most bicycle stores, county licensing departments and at the University police department on Washington Avenue.

In other crime incidents, the police reported a total of nine laptops stolen since Sept. 7.

Five of the laptops were taken from residence halls, and the rest were taken from labs or offices. Forced entry was not reported in any of the cases.

“People need to lock up their laptops and lock their rooms,” Johnson said.

“Don’t leave your office, your lab or room sitting open or unlocked with the laptop available inside for people to pick up and walk off with,” Johnson said.

He stressed that students need to keep their data backed up in a safe place, since it’s not just the computer that is lost.

“There’s a lot of information – intellectual property – that can’t be replaced very easily,” Johnson said.

He urged students to record the laptop serial number, make and model, which might help police track the stolen property.