Bike Theft a Growing Problem on Campus

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

  • Contrary to an urban legend circulating around campus, a bike rack like this one was not stolen with the bikes still attached to

    Contrary to an urban legend circulating around campus, a bike rack like this one was not stolen with the bikes still attached to

Written by Gonzalo Moreno

The UoG campus has a new flavour of the school year, as far as on-campus crime is concerned. Although there have always been sporadic thefts of bicycles on campus, bike theft has become a “prominent problem this year,” says Theoretical Physics student Bayden Pritchard, who is the Coordinator of the CSA’s Bike Centre. What is really worrying, according to Guelph Mountain Bike Club (GMBC) member Chris Leverette, is that thieves are targeting high-end bikes and stealing them even when they are left unsupervised for very short periods of time.

In a “conservative estimate,” Pritchard believes that “at least 50 bikes” have been stolen this school year. Robin Begin, Director of Campus Community Police, confirmed via email that “approximately 55 bikes have been reported stolen” in this period, a number that might be higher if a number of crimes went unreported. The value of the bikes stolen has also increased. Leverette, a fourth-year Management and Economics student, calculates the total value of the stolen bicycles at about $15,000. He also added that, in the seven cases that he personally knows of, the average value of the stolen bike was “$900 or higher.”

“They definitely target high-end bikes,” says Pritchard. “There’s a $400-$500 ceiling. Anything over that is guaranteed to be stolen. Conversely, anything cheaper is guaranteed not to be stolen.” On top of this, the thieves seem to be able to operate in very small windows of opportunity. Leverette says that he knows of people that “left their bikes [locked] for a small period of time, came back from one class period and they were gone.” Pritchard corroborates this, as he advises people to “not bother” riding a good bicycle to school, “even if you leave it for only 15 minutes.”

This speed, coupled with the targeting of expensive bikes, makes Leverette believe that the thieves are “definitely organized somehow,” although Begin says that “we do not have information that indicates whether one person or a group of persons are involved in the thefts.”

Although both Pritchard and GMBC Co-President Aaron Rahim agree that this is only speculation, since “no one has ever been caught red-handed,” Rahim, a third-year Molecular Biology student, says that the difference between this year and previous school years is that “this year [the thefts] seem organized.”

Leverette blames the increasing amount of bike theft on “lack of student knowledge about the issue. A lot of people aren’t aware that thefts occur.” Although Campus Police issued a crime bulletin about it in September, “theft kept occurring,” says Leverette, who nevertheless concedes that the problem “is not [Campus Police’s] fault.”

Several universities, such as Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier, are encountering similar problems. Western has installed lockers which are big enough to hold bicycles, but, at $15,000 per 10-unit structure, they do not come cheap. The University of Toronto has bought GPS-equipped sting bikes to try to catch thieves in the act, but the results of this initiative have not yet been disclosed.

When asked about displaying similar initiatives in Guelph, Begin says that “officers from the Bike Unit have been speaking to bicyclists on campus and personally discussing with them different bike safety options.” She also adds that Campus Police plan to step up their efforts against on-campus bike theft this Winter semester, but would not disclose further details so as to keep the specifics of the operation unknown to thieves.

For the time being, Rahim advises riders to “not go cheap on a lock. Buy a good, solid u-lock [as opposed to a cable lock] in a reputable bike shop.” Even then, says Pritchard, if it is a good bike, “it will probably still be stolen.” Campus Police has some bike safety tips on their website.

In any case, according to Leverette, “the easiest solution is to purchase an old bike and ride it to school,” and Rahim agrees that this “would stop the problem at the source.” Pritchard sums the whole issue of increased bike theft on campus in one final statement: “Don’t ride anything worth more than 200 bucks to school!”

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  1. Posted by: Iceman on Jan 31, 2007 @ 6:13pm

    Correction, GMBC Co-President is actually Aaron *Rahim*. I had also heard about a fellow GMBC member offering their bike in a sting operation and was turned down. You'd think the campus police, while still correctly advocating bringing cheaper bikes to campus, would encourage this opportunity to perhaps nail down one of the culprits who could perhaps give up other members if it is an organized mission.

  2. Posted by: Adam A. Donaldson on Feb 1, 2007 @ 12:03am

    The above correction's been made and we extend our apologies to Mr. Rahim.

  3. Posted by: Gonzalo on Feb 2, 2007 @ 4:34pm

    Iceman, the reason that Campus Police turned down the offer from that GMBC member would be that there are considerable legal liabilities attached to using someone else's property for sting operations.

    After having been in touch with Campus Police about this, I can tell you that they ARE making a serious effort to catch some of these thieves. They are just (understandably) not publicizing how they are going about doing it.

  4. Posted by: Iceman on Feb 6, 2007 @ 2:57pm

    Thanks for the information Gonzalo, that does make a lot of sense not to publicize their efforts.

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