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Bike thefts are on the rise

Joseph McMahon | Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cycling-enthusiasts around campus may want to be more careful about how they lock their bikes because according to assistant director of Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) Dave Chapman, bike thefts are on the rise.

“From Aug. 2006 to Aug. 2007 we had quite a drop in the number of bikes being stolen, and now we see an increase [in bikes being stolen]. I don’t know why,” he said.

Chapman said there were 67 bikes thefts reported this past Sept. – 26 more than the 41 reported in September 2007. He said a variety of factors could be contributing to the rise in thefts.

“Maybe there’s more bikes on campus, maybe it’s because the weather is a little bit nicer this year. It’s just a combination of things,” he said.

Other students are the most likely culprits in most cases, Chapman said.

“The majority of bikes that are being taken are, unfortunately, being taken by fellow students,” he said. “What we think is happening is that students are leaving class or leaving their dorms and not wishing to walk across campus so they hop on a bike that is available, ride it to where they need to ride it and then leave it there.”

Chapman also said any student caught stealing a bike could face serious consequences, including prosecution.

“They can be criminally charged with theft and that would go to the prosecutors office. Also, ResLife becomes involved because it involves a student taking another’s property,” he said.

Chapman said most recovered bikes are found abandoned next to buildings around campus.

“We recover many bikes that have been taken around campus and students often find their bikes that have been taken lying next to buildings,” he said.

However, Chapman said NDSP has also apprehended several members of the South Bend community who have stolen bikes on campus, including recently when officers arrested three juveniles.

“We arrested them and they’re in the court system now, so it’s not all the [Notre Dame] community doing it,” he said.

Not all students report the theft of their bike to NDSP. Sophomore Scott McIntosh said his bike was taken from the courtyard between Alumni and Dillon, but chose not to report it because he thought there was little chance of it being recovered.

“When I went to go find it the lock was just sitting on the ground. I looked around campus for a little bit but there was really no chance of finding it,” McIntosh said. “I know it’s happened a lot around campus and I just assumed that it’s the way things work.”

Senior Drago Flores said when his bike was stolen two years ago, he made a Facebook group entitled “Little Red Riding Bike,” encouraging his friends to look for his bike around campus. Although someone eventually found his bike, the story didn’t have a happy ending.

“It was just kind of a fun, spur of the moment thing that worked,” Flores said. “It ended up getting stolen from me about three weeks afterwards again.”

Chapman said Flores’ case is not unique. Often students report their bikes being taken multiple times.

“We’ve had students who have had their bikes stolen two or three times this year,” he said.

Chapman said one of the best ways to protect a bike was to buy a steel U-lock, which unlike cable locks cannot be easily broken.

“The best locks for bicycles are the big U-locks because those can’t be cut. The other chain locks and combination locks can be cut very easily and very quickly,” he said.

Chapman also stressed it is very important for students to register their bikes with NDSP, or else, unless they have the bike’s serial number, NDSP is forced to hold on to the bike because they do not know whom to return it to.

“If you don’t register your bike and you don’t have a serial number, then even when we find a bike that looks like yours, if you can’t prove it’s yours then we can’t give it to you,” he said.

Currently, NDSP is holding more than 600 bikes that have been found on campus.

“We collected over 600 bikes at the end of the school year last year that were left laying on campus,” Chapman said.

Ultimately, Chapman said his major goal is simply making sure students are able to protect their bikes.

“We want students to have their bikes,” he said. “It’s a convenience for them to have their bikes to ride to class or wherever they need to, and we’re trying everything we can do to push registration and locking your bike up.”