Web site uses social networking to return stolen bikes

Bike thieves beware, the Karma Army is here to save the day.

The Karma Army is a project started in August to help prevent bicycle theft by creating a database for users to store information about their bikes and other outdoor equipment. The site’s services are all free.

“We want to provide people with ways that will not only prevent their bikes and things from getting stolen but also how to lock it up properly,” said Howard Brodwin, co-founder of the Karma Army. “The key is to prevent things from getting stolen.”

The group is using social networking as the focal point to spread the word about its efforts to help locate stolen items. Bicycle owners create a profile on KarmaArmy.com, enter a serial number and then describe the location of their equipment. In the event of theft, e-mails and SMS messages containing the information they entered will be relayed to other users in the same area.

“The more eyes we have out there looking, the better chance we have for it to be recovered,” Brodwin said.

Dan Bleizeffer, freshman in DGS, said he thinks more awareness of bicycle theft will help stop it from occurring as much.

“I think that this is a positive effort,” he added. “The more bike thefts are made known to other people, the more people are aware and are on the lookout.”

However, other students are not convinced that a social networking site will help return stolen bikes.

“It is a cool idea, but I am not sold on likelihood that the bikes that are reported will actually be recovered,” said Jon Massey, freshman in LAS. “I think that this is a good way to raise awareness for stolen bikes but evidence that shows it works would make more people believers.”

There were 10 bikes reported stolen on campus in August and 14 reported as stolen in September, said Sharon Lawrence, chief clerk for the University Police. The number of bikes stoles in October was not released by police yet.

Retailers said they sell items that can help prevent bikes from being stolen.

“One way we help prevent bike theft in the area is by offering the On Guard Locking Skewer Set,” said Jason Cook, employee at Durst Cycle in Urbana. “It is a skewer that replaces the ones that come standard in bikes with one that is lockable and prevents saddles and wheels from being stolen.”

The locking skewer set is comprised of two metal rods and a bracket, which are used to lock the wheels and the seat in place to prevent them from being stolen.

Some University students said they appreciate what the Karma Army is doing and want the site to keep up its efforts.

“It’s cool to have it here on campus,” said Alex Hanrahan, freshman in ACES.

“I need my bike to get from the six pack to the Materials Science and Engineering Building. I do not know what I would do if I didn’t have it.”