U students can take simple steps to prevent theft on campus

EBy Anna Nguyen and Geoff Ziezulewicz Eric Olson locked his bicycle up earlier this month outside Coffman Union for three hours, but when he went to retrieve it, he found it had been stolen.

“I had only had (the bicycle) for a few weeks and it was the first time I left it unattended,” said Olson, a biology junior.

Now, he uses a more secure U- lock instead of a cable lock for his new bicycle.

While theft is the most common crime on campus, University police and security monitors said students can decrease their chances of being victimized by taking simple precautions. Bike licenses, more secure bike locks and campus escorts – combined with common sense – are a few examples of things that can prevent theft and other less-common crimes such as assault.

University police recorded 343 thefts between January and June 2003. Stolen bicycles accounted for 20 percent of those thefts, police said.

Only one in 10 stolen bicycles is ever returned to its owner, but it is much easier for police to track down bicycles with state-issued licenses, Lt. Chuck Miner said.

Bicycle owners can purchase a three-year license for $10 from University police in the Transportation and Safety Building on Washington Avenue.

When bicycles are stolen, the police enter the bicycle’s serial number into a national database. If a bicycle is pawned, police can locate it through its serial number, Miner said.

Bicycles should be attached to an actual bicycle rack, not a pole or railing, Miner said. Police watch the racks more closely because they are specially designated for bicycles.

Ben Schnabel, program manager for the Student Security Monitor Program at the University said locking a bicycle in an open, well-lit area can also deter potential thieves.

“If a bike is lingering in the shadows, the thief can bring out tools and do more than in bright light,” Schnabel said.

Bicycle theft often occurs because of substandard locks and improper locking, Schnabel said.

“To cut a cable lock takes a matter of seconds,” Schnabel said. “So often people get their bike stolen and say ‘I was only gone for five minutes.’ “

Aside from the theft of an entire bicycle, James Freitag, manager of Erik’s Bike Shop in Dinkytown, said unlocked components are also often stolen.

Every day people come in needing a new bicycle seat or tire, and such replacements come at a hefty cost, he said.

“When you replace all that stuff, a lot of times you are spending a third of what the bicycle costs,” Freitag said.

A seat leash, which latches the bicycle seat and post to the frame, costs $6, Freitag said, while buying a new seat and having it installed costs approximately $50.

He also said non-quick-release skewers for tires will keep tires safe. The skewer, along with the bicycle frame, acts as a holder for the wheel and axle. Skewers block the quick-release mechanism on newer-model bicycle tires.

Bicycles are not the only items vulnerable to theft on campus. Miner said students should not leave items alone in libraries or study lounges, even for quick trips to the bathroom.

Bryan Vore, a student security monitor in the Security Monitor Program and a fifth-year student in journalism and studies in cinema and media culture, said many students tell him they only left items unattended in the library for a few minutes and found them missing.

On campus, burglaries usually occur in residence halls and University offices. In residence halls, thefts are usually students stealing from each other, Miner said.

Assaults on campus are less common, and students walking alone on campus can lessen their odds of becoming crime victims by using the University Security Monitor Program’s escort service. Escorts are available to students, faculty, staff and visitors anytime by calling 624-WALK. There has never been an assault on campus when an escort was present, Schnabel said.

Escorts have boundaries off campus in Minneapolis and St. Paul, though they are not set in stone, Schnabel said.

Drinking in excess while walking at night also makes you a more likely target for crime, Miner said.

Anna Nguyen and Geoff Ziezulewicz are freelance writers.

The freelance editor welcomes comments at [email protected]