Bike theft persists; victims wisen up

Last year, when University student Vincent Winters was a freshman, he woke up to find nothing but a front tire in the space where his $600, brand-new bike should have been.

Winters used a Kryptonite U-lock and a cable lock to secure his bike to the rack. It was clear that the culprit had cut through the cable and was able to detach the rest of the bike from the locked tire, Winters said.

“I didn’t lock it right, and it screwed me up,” he said.

Unfortunately, Winters’ mistake is not unheard of at the University. In fact, bike theft is the most common property theft crime on campus, DPS officer Ken Jackson said.

In 2008, 102 stolen bicycles were reported to DPS, and 81 have been reported so far in 2009.

Jackson explained that potential bike snatchers are difficult to notice.

“They blend in,” he said. “People are frequently using the racks so it’s hard to tell if someone is getting their own or stealing a bike.”

 DPS refers to people who are suspiciously walking or riding around a bike rack as “casing the rack.” Jackson said the person is probably looking for the easiest steal or a cable lock.  They usually pass by the U-locks because they are difficult to cut through.

“You would need a saw, and that’s a lot more obvious,” he said.

Jackson said that staff and faculty are usually the ones to report suspicious behavior, and he encourages students to also take on the initiative.

There are several ways to lower the chance of unexpectedly losing your two-wheeler, including purchasing the right type of lock and using it correctly.

Recently,  Jackson helped a student at Carson Hall who was frustrated to find only his front tire locked to the bike rack. Jackson recommends that students avoid this common mistake by purchasing a U-lock to secure the frame and back tire to the rack. An additional cable lock should run through the front tire for maximum bike security.

Students are also encouraged to register their bikes at the DPS office. In fact, according to an Oregon Administrative Rule, bike registration is mandatory for anyone who rides a bike on campus grounds.

The University registration stickers help DPS officers recognize bikes that belong to students or staff members. For instance, Jackson recently stopped a person with a registered bike who said they were not a University student. Jackson quickly ran the number and was able to identify and contact the owner, who was surprised to find that her bike was missing from her front porch.

DPS statistics prove, however, that these lucky situations are rare. As of Jan. 1, only four bike recoveries have been reported to DPS. However, this number does not include cases where a student fails to file an initial bike theft report, but later finds his or her bike and calls DPS for assistance, DPS sergeant Clark Hansen wrote in an e-mail.

Jackson also recommends that victims of bike theft check to see if their bikes have been posted on Craigslist, as bike thefts often have monetary intentions.

Although Eugene continues to uphold its undesirable bike theft reputation, Jackson is confident that if riders become educated on proper bike locking techniques, the numbers
could decrease.

After learning a hard lesson, Winters advises students to avoid buying “a brand new bike.”

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