Bike Thefts Spike in fall semester

By Daniel Corry

By Daniel Corry

Staff writer

It is not uncommon this time of year for campus police to field call after call about stolen bicycles. But activity has spike higher than previous years —  71 thefts have occurred in 2015, 40 of them in the fall semester alone.

Patrick Wade, University of Illinois Police Department spokesman, said the number is high but not shocking. 

“It depends on what you’re looking at, its higher than last year, but its still lower to the year prior,” he said. “We kind of look at it as a range for the long term.” 

A recent bike theft on Oct. 12 around 11:30 a.m. outside of the Beckman Institute was captured by the building’s security camera. The bike was owned by Jacob Wagner, a graduate student in mechanical engineering. Wagner lives about two miles from campus and realized his bike was stolen around 5:00 p.m. that day. 

Wagner said he spent 15 minutes pacing the area where his bike had been locked after he realized it was gone. 

“I guess the lock itself just snapped because if you see (the video surveillance of the incident) he kind of just yanks on it a couple of times, pretty hard, and it comes loose.”

After the  incident, Wagner got a ride home from his girlfriend and called the police and give his statement. He also reached out to the local bike shop and made fliers about his missing bike. 

The University Police Department was later able to look at the surveillance video in that area and caught a juvenile stealing Wagner’s bike, almost out of frame of the video.

“(The police) seemed responsive and when I made the claim they came out, and they took it seriously — wrote down the serial number and then actually went back and looked at the footage.” Wagner said. “I didn’t have a whole lot of hope for getting (the bike) back based on things that I’d read online and stories that I’ve heard from people.”

Wagner’s stolen bike was a black and red Giant XR2 Hybrid 2015 model with a 21” frame. The bike was valued at $1,000 but Wagner bought it online for $500. Recently, he bought a $110 bike on craigslist and bought a $50 lock. 

“Don’t skimp on locking up your bike,” he said.

Wade said, when it comes to bike thefits, the UIPD focuses on education and prevention.

“So we try to tell our campus community members what they can do to keep their bikes safe because we just don’t have the resources to put a police officer at every bicycle rack or a camera on every bicycle rack and catch every bicycle thief that there is on campus,” he said. “It’s just not realistic.”

Wade said to prevent theft bicyclists should purchase a U-Lock instead of a cable lock and should lock bikes to bike racks, instead of parking meters or fences.

Typically, he said, bike thefts are reported at the University’s Public Safety Building and the reports are forwarded to the detectives who are responsible with following up on the theft. The UIPD is usually able to recover about 10 percent of stolen bikes each year. 

Wade also encouraged students to register bikes and other important belongings with a description and serial number before they are stolen, in order to make the entire retrieval process easier for both parties.

[email protected]