Bike theft hits dozens of students

By Eric Anderson

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part series taking a closer look at the issues of bike safety and bike theft on campus.

Four months after her bike disappeared, Lauren Etmekjian, junior in AHS, said she spotted it leaning unlocked against Murphy’s on a frigid February night.

“It was this really ghetto bike,” Etmekjian said. But the oddly nice seat on the junky bike was the telltale sign that the bike was hers, she added.

“I absolutely knew that it was my bike,” she said.

The Champaign police had given her a card with instructions to call a phone number if she ever found her bike. She said she rummaged through her purse and called.

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Etmekjian said she guarded her bike, and waited. And waited. And waited, but no police arrived.

“I’m not even kidding you, 15 minutes go by, no cop car,” she said.

Then, the offender exited Murphy’s Pub, saddled Etmekjian’s “ghetto bike with the nice seat,” and started pedaling away, she recalled.

She said there were still no sirens. Still no police. And the thief was escaping down Sixth Street.

Then, another individual came out of Murphy’s and approached Etmekjian. He asked her why she ‘looked sad’ and Etmekjian replied that she had just witnessed someone steal her bike.

The individual then took matters in to his own hands and beat up the offender who stole her bike. People flooded to the brawl to throw some punches of their own, she added. Hysterical, Etmekjian said she called the police again.

“You said you’d send a cop car, and now there’s a fight!” she said.

Word of a fight finally triggered a response from the police.

“Four cop cars with sirens and lights came tearing down Green Street five minutes later,” Etmekjian said.

Still hysterical, she said she directed the police to the brawl, which they diffused. The police took the thief to jail. It turned out that the offender had a criminal history.

Her story shows that bicyclists need not be weaving in and out of pedestrians to stave off danger. Thieves prey on poorly locked bicycles, said Christopher Hawk, University police officer.

Sharon Lawrence, chief clerk of the University Police, said 31 bikes were reported stolen on campus from Sept. 1, 2006, to May 31, 2007.

“It’s terrible,” Hawk said. “There are alcohol-impaired students who are coming home from the campus bars who don’t want to walk four blocks so they will try to steal a bike from a rack.”

To steal one bike, most thieves often target two, Hawk said. The thieves find bikes locked only by the wheel and steal the unlocked frame. They find other bikes locked only by the frame and steal the unlocked wheel. They attach the stolen tire to the stolen frame and ride off.

Jacob Heck, junior in FAA, said he caught a pair of bike thieves red-handed as they were walking away with his bike.

“I saw a guy in his 30s walking with a young boy and dragging my bike,” Heck said. “I yelled at them, and they just dropped the bike and took off.”

Heck said he was more amused than alerted.

“I’ve had (the bike) since junior high,” he said. “It was probably worth, like, 15 bucks.”

Later in the semester, Heck said an unknown thief did cut through the lock and steal his bike.

“The better the lock you have on the bike, the less chance that it will be stolen,” Hawk said. “The thief will just move down to the next bike that’s got the little cheap padlock with a braided cable on it that can be stolen very easily.”

Hawk added that there is some hope of retrieving a lost bike.

But Etmekjian said that even after the brawl was over and the thief was back behind bars racking up a slew of charges, she was still without a bike.

“I don’t have a bike, (the thief) doesn’t have a bike, no one has a bike anymore,” she said.

The thief filed off the serial number, and Durst Cycle & Fitness, a local bicycle store, did not have a record of servicing the bike, Etmekjian said. She has no way of proving that the bike was hers. The “ghetto bike with the nice seat” is still in custody.

“I kind of wish I never saw the (darn) thing because I’ll probably never see it again anyway,” she said. “I single-handedly caused the biggest scene ever.”

Keep Your Bike Safe

  • Register your bike with Campus Parking
  • Know your bike’s serial number
  • Use a good U-Lock

Source: Officer Christopher Hawk