MSA studies ways to prevent bike theft

Matthew Gruchow

The Minnesota Student Association along with University police is exploring options to prevent bike theft on campus and to increase bike registration numbers, an MSA official said.

The dialogue was prompted by a recent survey conducted by the Leadership, You and Your Community (EdPA 3302/PA 3961) class last semester. It showed that of the 500 University students surveyed, 192 commuted by bike.

According to the survey, 84 of those 192 students had their bikes stolen at least once.

No one surveyed got the bike back after it was stolen.

“I think this is a huge problem on campus,” said Richard Orr, MSA Academics and Services Committee chairman.

A free, online bike-registration system is an option being considered, Orr said.

The MSA registration system would fill the gap left if Minnesota eliminates its bike-registration program because it is not being used, he said.

“I think this is something we could do without using student fees, especially if we use the Internet,” Orr said.

If the idea moves forward, a system could be in place for new students by 2006, Orr said.

The average cost of bikes belonging to the students surveyed was $245.

The total cost of the stolen bikes was $20,580, according to the survey.

MSA will continue to work with police to educate bikers on the safest places to park their bikes and how best to secure them, Orr said.

Greg Hestness, University police chief and assistant vice president for the Department of Public Safety, said a small, electronic device similar to a department store security tag is also being considered for campus use.

The device could be placed on a bike and then could be read by police with special scanners, he said.

Registering a bike is the best way to better a person’s chances of getting it back if stolen, he said.

“We do recover a lot of bikes, but matching them up with the rightful owner can be nearly impossible,” Hestness said. “That’s why the city has a bike auction every year. They just can’t get them back to their owners.”

The survey also showed that of those who had had a bike stolen, 58 percent said they felt police did not take the theft seriously.

Orr said police take theft seriously but are hindered when students fail to register their bikes or refuse to file theft reports.

“I think (the police) are doing their best efforts currently,” Orr said. “I think they are taking it seriously but are being hindered in their ability to be effective.”

To curb bike theft, students and police must work together, Hestness said.

Students must watch for suspicious activity around areas used to park bikes, he said.

“If there’s some suspicious activity around a bike, give us a call, and we’ll check it out,” Hestness said. “We’ve interrupted bike thefts by people calling or captured people in flight.”