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Campus bike thieves on a roll

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More than 40 bike thefts have been reported to the UWPD since January.

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U-locks are recommended for locking bikes, but UWPD officers suggest the lock be put through both the frame and tires to prevent theft.

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UWPD officer William Bergin points to the back tire of a bike, explaining how it is not properly secured and could be removed by thieves.

As the weather improves, students commute by bike more and more frequently. They lock up their bikes on campus and at their place of residence, but all too often they return to find a severed cable lock littering the ground. This is a scenario the UW Police Department has heard many times before.

“Cable locks don’t work,” said officer William Bergin of the UWPD. “They cut it, and it takes a matter of seconds.”

Authorities have seen a recent increase in bike thefts, with roughly 43 stolen this quarter. Compared to the 107 bicycles Bergin estimates were stolen last year, this amount of theft has caused campus officials to take notice.

“Bike theft has definitely increased on campus,” said Lauren Boubel, a manager at the ASUW Bike Shop. “People come in once or twice a week to ask me if I’ve seen their bikes that have been stolen.”

While the UWPD takes measures to prevent bicycle theft, such as working with local retailers to prevent the resale of stolen property, many preventive measures are the responsibility of individuals.

“As far as recovering bikes, the chances are slim,” Bergin said. “The serial number and model make all the difference in the world.”

While many students attach U-locks to the center of the bicycle, proper use of the security device involves removing one wheel and securing it to the frame and rack next to the other wheel. This limits the space criminals have to tamper with the lock.

“I would like to see people be observant,” Bergin said. “Use U-locks properly, register your bike and if you see someone suspicious, call 911.”

The UWPD reports that bike thefts happen at all hours of the day, and that in the 20 seconds it takes to cut through a cable lock, it’s not uncommon for a theft to occur without any witnesses.

“I would hope that if someone saw a bike being stolen during the day, they would do something about it,” said sophomore bicyclist Peter Lambe.

Another option for students is to rent bike lockers on campus. UW Commuter Services is also working to provide more enclosed bike shelters, which are large cages that contain multiple bike racks and require an entry code. While one such enclosure is located at the UW Tower, Bergin said that budget cuts may limit expansion of the program.

One difficulty the UWPD faces is victims who report thefts but later decide not to prosecute the offense. If officers find the criminal and the owner of the bike has previously decided not to prosecute, the department is not authorized to apprehend the suspect.

“I urge people, when we take a stolen bike report, to prosecute,” Bergin said. “If you’re not willing to prosecute, there’s very little we can do, because without a victim, we don’t have a crime.”

Students can register their bicycles with the UWPD on the department’s Web site, or by filling out paperwork located at the ASUW Bike Shop in the HUB.

Reach editorial assistant Lexie Krell at news@dailyuw.com.

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