Bike thefts in full bloom

Bike thefts surge each spring as the weather allows more people to ride to campus.

Koran Addo

It’s getting to be bike-riding weather – and thieves have taken notice.

University police said bicycle thefts on campus have spiked in recent weeks as more students use two-wheeled transportation to get around.

“This is the season when bike thefts jump,” University Deputy Police Chief Steve Johnson said. “When it starts to warm up, (bike thieves) come out because they know the shopping is going to be good.”

University police officer Aaron Churness said he has counted approximately 45 reports of stolen bikes since the beginning of February.

The number is probably much higher, Churness said, as theft victims often fail to report stolen bikes because they think there is a low chance of recovery.

“We do find a lot of stolen bikes, but when they aren’t registered, we have no way to return them to their owner,” he said.

Churness said students should record important information that can help identify their bikes, such as the manufacturer, model and serial number.

Students can also register their bikes with University police for $10, Churness said.

“When you register your bike, any police department in the state can track and return that bike to the owner if gets stolen,” he said.

Bikes that are recovered but not claimed are auctioned or given to charity, Churness said.

Besides registering bikes, students should also buy a good lock and learn the proper way to put it on the bike, Churness said.

“A lot of the cheaper bike locks can be cut with pliers or clippers,” Churness said. “We have found (clippers) on suspects before.”

Kevin Ishaug, owner of Freewheel Bike in Minneapolis, said hardened steel U-shaped locks cause the most problems for bike thieves.

“If you’re buying a lock, go with the U-lock. Stay away from cable locks, unless you’re going to use it as an auxiliary lock for the wheel or the seat,” he said. “The U-lock is far and away the best variety.”

Ishaug said the best way to lock a bike is to secure it to something sturdy and stationary such as a street sign or bike rack.

One of the biggest mistakes students make is locking the wheel and frame together but not locking the bike to a stationary object, Ishaug said.

“Then someone comes along picks up the bike and just walks away,” he said.

When buying a lock, Ishaug said students should look for one large enough to lock the frame and front wheel to a bike rack.

“If you do this, you can probably avoid (being the victim of) 95 percent of bike thieves on campus,” he said.

Police officials said there is no way to prevent bike thefts; instead students can take steps to make it as difficult as possible for bike thieves to operate.

“No matter what, unfortunately, if someone wants your bike they can get it,” Churness said.