Preventing bicycle theft on BYU campus

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Jennifer Parker loved her bike. It had been given to her as a graduation present and she used her purple beach cruiser to get everywhere — at least until it was stolen when she parked it outside the Richards Building.

“I actually walked home from the University Office crying, just because I was so sad that I was never going to see my bike again,” Parker said. “Whenever I would walk past a bike rack, I would scan it like crazy, because my bike was purple so it was pretty hard to miss … but I would never see it.”

Bicycle theft at BYU is more common than people think, and according to statistics compiled by the BYU Police Department, thefts have been steadily increasing over the past few years.

Lt. Arnold Lemmon, Information Officer for the BYU Police Department, said culprits are sometimes students, but could also be anyone who walks onto campus. Lemmon said thieves typically have three  primary motivations for stealing a bike — to make money, for their own personal use or because it’s more convenient.

“They’ll steal them just to ride from Point A to Point B,” Lemmon said. “So I’m leaving the Wilkinson Center and I want to get to my apartment in downtown Provo, so I jump on the bike and ride it there and then just dump it.”

As it turns out, this is what happened to Parker. Months after her bike had been stolen a friend told her he had seen her bike parked in Helaman Halls. Someone had grabbed her bike, rode it around and then left it at Helaman Halls.

“It was a miracle,” Parker said. “Seriously. I couldn’t have been happier. I ride it every day now … It was a huge deal.”

A similar incident occurred when a student stole a police officer’s bike for personal use, Lemmon said.

“We had an officer and somebody stole his police bike,” Lemmon said. “Then, Adrian was walking across campus a week or so later and there goes the guy riding right by him on the police bike. So he put the ‘habeas grabbus’ on him, arrested him and prosecuted him. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer.”

However, the return of a stolen bike can be difficult, especially without taking the proper steps to protect the bike. Lemmon said he recommends three different things.

“So the trick is to, one: lock your bike up; two: make sure it’s licensed – that costs a buck; and three: if you’re going to use a bike just to commute around campus, buy a cheapo,” Lt. Lemmon said.

Andrew Snow, 24, a public relations major from Tempe, Ariz., who has worked with BYU police, said he agrees with Lemmon.

“Bike theft happens almost daily at BYU, so it behooves students to take extra care of their possessions,” Snow said. “Sure, it’s the Lord’s university, but that doesn’t mean that the devil only tempts those at the U.  Lock your bike through the wheel and the frame and you should be fine.”

Students can register their bikes at BYU Parking Services, located in 2120 JKB. Treena Bolingbroke, parking services supervisor, said it costs $1, credit cards are accepted and it only requires some basic information about your bike.

“That dollar you put on a bike license registers the serial number on the bike with us and the city of Provo and it pretty much covers your back if something happens,” Bolingbroke said. “For a dollar that’s pretty inexpensive.”

According to Provo city law, bicyclists are legally obligated to register bicycles — another reason to register your bike on campus. Registering your bike now will also save you time and money in the long run, Bolingbroke said.

“Most people don’t come in, not because of the money but because of the time — they’re too busy,” Bolingbroke said. “But when their bike gets stolen then it becomes very time-consuming and expensive.”

But there are still students who are frustrated with the situation. Michael Laird, 23, a chemical engineering major from Kent, Wash., whose bike was stolen, said he feels more should be done to prevent thefts.

“Well, it’s obviously a problem but it doesn’t look like anything’s being done to prevent it,” Laird said. “I think roving bands of armed students would be a perfect solution.”

For a period of time BYU police did assign an officer as a specialist in bike recovery, but the program was not effective. Still, more expensive stolen bikes can be entered into the FBI national database, Lemmon said, to aid in the recovery of stolen bikes.

“We’ll enter it into a national database with the FBI, so if it’s picked up anywhere in the United States and checked by another officer we’ll get a hit on it,” Lemmon said. “Now, that’s rare because, again, most people you know, they just kind of blow off writing down the serial number and all that business. And so there are just hundreds and hundreds of bikes out there that never get claimed.”

However, using a cheaper bike ensures one is less likely to be targeted by criminals, but if one wants a nicer bike, taking extra precautions will be necessary, Lemmon said.

“When they have an $1,800 bike and they’re using a $20 lock, that doesn’t make sense,” Lemmon said. “For a high-end bike, you want to use a case-hardened U-lock.”

Which is exactly what Jennifer Parker bought after recovering her bike.

“Right when I found my bike, that day I went and got the most expensive, big, honkin’ U-lock that I could find,” Parker said. “I lock it up every time now.”

 

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