Bike bandits


Ian Lituchy/The USD Vista Bike thefts affect many students on campus.

Ian Lituchy/The USD Vista Bike thefts affect many students on campus.

A bicycle may not seem like a precious commodity to some. However, to others it is their only means of transportation. While the hilly campus of the University of San Diego is not the most ideal campus for bike riding, many students who do bike are encouraged to take actions in order to prevent their bike from being stolen.

Public Safety (P-safe), the on-campus law enforcement at USD, explained that bikes that are stolen may not be secured properly, and that students should take certain actions to keep their bikes safe.

Officers Ryan Hansen and Milton Maples of P-safe explained that while the issue of bike theft has gone down since the beginning of the year, it is not gone altogether.

“I don’t have an exact number; I just know that at the beginning of the school year it was a lot more frequent, the month of September specifically,” Hansen said.  “We even put out a safety alert, because that was about eight.”

Hansen believes that the P-safe awareness initiatives might have been instrumental in decreasing the number of stolen bikes.

“First off we put out notices along the bike racks, and we put out what we recommend as a bike lock,” Hansen said. “We found that in most of the cases, where a bike was stolen they used a cable lock, and they were just cut right through. So we recommend a U-lock which is not one hundred percent guaranteed but it helps. We have new bike racks and that has helped a lot.”

Maples added that getting the lock was the main help, but learning how to properly lock the bike was another.

“We showed them how to lock the bike,” Maples said. “I have seen a lot where people just lock around the seat post, and in that case they can just take the seat post off and then take the bike. We want to make it harder for them to take the bike.”

Hansen continued explaining how the P-safe officers patrol the bike racks as well.

“We also tell our patrol officers to be mindful, and if a bike is not secure, we take the bike,” Hansen said. “We have a place where we secure them. Then if a student calls saying, ‘hey my bike has been stolen’ that is the first place we check. We take them to prevent from somebody else taking it.”

Sophomore Kaleb Goldstein’s bike went missing earlier this year.

“I wasn’t super upset when I first noticed my bike was gone because I had a more valuable bike stolen last year that was cut off a lock,” Goldstein said. “So I was mostly just disappointed in the people that did it and that it would happen again in the same city. I guess I am too naive.”

Goldstein later learned that his second bike had not been stolen. Goldstein and his friend both learned that P-safe took their bikes.

“However I was very upset when I found out that public safety took our bikes,” Goldstein said. “Not only did they not notify us, but they damaged our bikes in the process of moving them to this crudely gated area where dozens of rusted bikes are leaned against each other. When we recovered them we noticed my friend’s tank was dented, some of my electrical cables were wrapped around his wheel which would need repair […].”

Goldstein admitted that his bike was not properly secured, however he claims that it would have stayed secured if P-safe had not intervened. Goldstein learned through a student on Facebook that P-safe had most likely taken the bikes.

For the bikes that P-safe does not collect, Maples and Hansen explained that they are unsure of who takes the bikes. However, they believe that because it is an open campus, the bike thieves could be outsiders. USD’s proximity to Tecolote Canyon, the riverbed, and the trolley stop are all mitigating factors as to who might steal the bikes. They encourage students and community members to stay alert.

“One thing I hear some students say is that their bike wasn’t worth very much,” Hansen said. “They are surprised anyone would want to take something like that, and to someone that need to transport themselves around San Diego, they don’t care how nice it is, they just want something that works.”

Hansen explained that while some bike thieves steal on a need basis, others take the more high-end bikes to make some cash.

“There is one person who takes it to get around town and the other person who take it [a nicer bike] to sell it and get what it is worth,” Hansen said.

Hansen and Maples explained that any theft report is submitted to the San Diego Police Department. Despite reporting the thefts to SDPD, Hansen explained that the chances of a student getting their bike back are slim to none. The chances only slightly increase when students know the serial number on their bike and can put that in the report.

Maples and Hansen encourage students to record the color, model, serial number, and student information when reporting a stolen bike.

Maples added that he even asks students to take a picture with their bikes. While there is not much that can be done once a bike is stolen, P-safe is implementing measures to help make students aware about the possibility of bike theft. The future new student orientations will contain information about bike thefts, and how to prevent it.