Monday Blues: The Rise in Bike Theft

Bikes are popular. I know that because the rate of bicycle theft around here rose by up to 80% (depending on location) between 2013 and 2015, the most recently complete statistical year. During that year, theft of bikes from the College campuses increased 81%, from 81 stolen bikes in 2013 to 147 in 2015. Within the City of Claremont bicycle theft increased 69%, with 59 bike stolen in 2015, up from 35 in 2013. An additional stat highlights how college and university campuses have become magnets for bike thieves - of the 59 bikes stolen within the City (excluding the Colleges) during 2015, 43 of those thefts happened within three blocks of the Colleges.

Those statistics and rate increases point to an unfortunate fact - bikes, even when locked up, can be easy targets. Officers of both the city police department and of campus security department stop suspicious individuals riding bikes, as well as vehicles (particularly pick-ups) carrying multiple bikes but, without any way to check for a rightful owner, there is often nothing that can be done. Because of this the police highly recommend registering your bike with the National Bike Registry.

The use of "bait bikes" is another tool the police have used to combat the rise in theft: "We have been using bait bikes and have had some success with these bicycles being stolen and being able to locate the suspect and make arrests. Unfortunately, the word is out that the College campuses are a target-rich environment for bicycle thefts and it will take some time to counter this belief among the thieves that frequent both the campuses and our nearby City streets."

I share this information not to scare anyone, but rather to emphasize the need to be aware, and to take precautions when we park our bikes. Many are the times I have ridden up to a cafe, left it outside (with plenty of people around watching me do so) and gone in to order drink or grub, trusting to the honesty of those people and my helmet lock - the effectiveness of both being questionable. The few seconds of inattention, as I place my order, is all it would take. Similarly, I don't know how many times I have ridden through the Village, or the Colleges, and spotted improperly secured bikes, others with wheels missing, or wheels only, remaining.

What can you do to combat bike theft?

1) Buy a good lock and use it. 2) Whenever possible, bring your bike inside. 3) When locking outside, I tend to favor locations that are active with a lot of passing foot traffic, rather than secluded areas. I don't recall every reading a study about the relative effectiveness of different locations, but a publicly visible one seems more secure than a secluded one. 4) Be aware. 5) If you see something suspicious, report it. 6) Register your bike through the police department, or National Bike Registry.

Thanks to Walt for providing a copy of the Police Commission Report from April of 2016