Campus bike thefts down, but not gone

By Laura Graesser

Shortly after Stefani Ozier moved into her apartment at the corner of Fourth and Daniel streets in May, she went home for the weekend.

When she returned, the bike she had invested several years and hundreds of dollars in was gone, stolen with the bike locks left behind.

“At first I was in shock. I thought: ‘Did I lose my bike?'” said Ozier, junior in applied life studies. “Then, I was really mad that someone would actually steal it.”

Ozier’s situation is a potential predicament for any bike rider at the University. While bike thefts have decreased dramatically over the past few years, it remains an issue on campus.

“It’s always been a problem, even when I was a student in ’62 to ’67,” said Ronald Durst, general manager of Durst Cycle, 1112 W. University Ave.

Before 1996, more than 200 bikes were stolen every year on campus, said Tony Ortiz, crime prevention coordinator for the University Police Department. Prior to that year, the University police presented bike safety talks to about 300 freshmen.

However, starting in 1996, the police coordinated with summer orientation programs, enabling them to reach more than 6,000 students to educate them about the best methods of keeping one’s bike safe on campus.

“After 1996, we had about 39 bikes stolen each year, and the past three years, the number has dropped to 35,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz and the University police taught students the type of bike to bring to campus and how to properly secure it. They encouraged students to bring an old bike or purchase one at an auction, resisting the urge to invest in a pricey model.

“Professional bike thieves focus on bikes that are more expensive and attractive because the resale is greater,” Ortiz said. “Students should invest in a cheaper, old bike that can be easily replaced.”

However, the majority of bike thieves are amateurs – teenagers looking for any bike to steal or tamper with, Ortiz said. Therefore, no matter what kind of bike a student rides, he or she should be careful in using the right locks and finding a proper location to secure it.

“We recommend different locks that are appropriate for where someone lives,” Durst said. “If they live in a low risk, trustworthy area, they could just use a cable lock. But on campus, they should use a U-lock.”

While cable locks can be broken with a bolt cutter, U-locks are more secure and much harder to cut through. However, for Kryptonite, a long-time manufacturer of bike locks, the reliability of their new model of U-locks has been lessened because it can be picked with a hollow pen.

“The situation only affects Kryptonite models made since 2001,” said Durst, whose store only had to pull a few locks off the shelves. “Kryptonite has been the leaders of the industry and they’ve assured their customers that they are resolving the situation.”

Anyone with the faulty locks can visit to find out how to get a free replacement.

Students using a U-lock are still vulnerable to bike thieves. Durst Cycle recommends using a U-lock for the frame and front wheel of the bike, as well as two cables to secure the seat and back wheel.

“The locks are very inexpensive safety tools to protect your bike,” Durst said.

In addition, the proper use of such locks is important to prevent theft. It is important to lock the bike to a solid, immovable post or rack, Ortiz said.

“Also, some people only lock the bike on the front wheel,” Ortiz said. “But the frame and the back wheel are the most expensive parts of the bike.”

For those students whose bikes are stolen, it is often hard to track down the thief or the bike. They have a better chance if they register their bike with the division of campus parking, said Ortiz, who has apprehended bike thieves because of the registration sticker.

“There are 14,000 to 16,000 bikes registered on campus,” Ortiz said. “With the registration, the police have a lot more information to go on and it’s another tool to aid in the recovery of the bike.”

In the end, common sense and careful attention is the best way of surviving four years on campus without one’s bike being stolen.

“I think that people have to weigh the cost and convenience of getting around,” Durst said. “There is no better way of getting around campus than on a bike.”