Bike theft up 86 percent on campus

From Sept. 1 to Oct. 24 there were 54 reports of stolen bicycles on campus âÄî 25 more than during the same period last year . Police attribute the increase in bicycle theft to the absence of bicycle monitors patrolling theft hotspots. Instead, the monitors were needed to watch the Washington Avenue Bridge and enforce the walking rules there, University police Lt. Troy Buhta said. With monitoring taking a backseat to bridge patrol, there is more opportunity for bikes to be stolen, he said. The bicycle monitor program, created to remove bicycles blocking building disability access, has turned into a key deterrent for potential thieves, Ben Schnabel , program manager for UMPD, said. However, with the Washington Avenue Bridge bicycle lanes shut down since the end of August, Schnabel said it was important to watch that area also. âÄúThereâÄôs only been one injury on the bridge, but the potential is huge,âÄù Schnabel said. âÄúIf you spend time [monitoring] and it prevented one person from cracking their skull open is that better or worse than five bikes getting stolen?âÄù The University priority is people, places, then possessions, Schnabel said. But once the police started noticing the trend toward more theft in early October they changed the monitorsâÄô shifts. Nathan Kneeland , engineering first-year and cyclist, said he understands the need to keep cyclists from hurting people on the bridge, but he has reservations about the decrease in bicycle rack monitoring. âÄú[Students] need both,âÄù he said. âÄú[Police] just have to find a balance.âÄù Until the second week of October, the monitors were spending three-fourths of their shift on the bridge. But because of the increase in theft, monitors now spend one quarter to half of their shift on bridge detail, Matthew Shoff, bicycle monitor and sociology sophomore, said. Shoff and the 20 to 30 monitors usually work in two to three person shifts. During these shifts, one or two monitors will regulate traffic on the bridge and the other will patrol the bike racks. The monitors patrol all areas of campus, but concentrate mainly on the Moos Tower , University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview and Coffman Union racks, which are notorious for bicycle theft, he said. While Schnabel agrees that monitors are useful in discouraging would-be thieves, he said students are also at fault by forgetting to lock their bicyles or choosing locks that are easy to break through. âÄúI do know that itâÄôs generally 90 percent of the bikes that are stolen use cable locks,âÄù he said. âÄúWhile theft is an unfortunate thing, itâÄôs not an unpreventable thing.âÄù Many students who do have their bicycles stolen canâÄôt produce the serial numbers, further decreasing the possibilities that their bicyle will be returned. UMPD recently began having student security monitors attach fliers to bikes advocating the UniversityâÄôs Electronic Portfolio program, which keeps track of the make, model and serial number of student bicycles on campus.