Due to a string of recent bike thefts, the University has begun issuing safety warnings and precautions to prevent the situation from escalating.
In an email sent to the University community last week by the Office of Public Safety Director Scott Rohde, he notified the campus about the increase in recent bike thefts and possible prevention tactics.
“As we settle into the new school semester, it is important to remain vigilant in ensuring the security of your property,” Rohde wrote in the email. “We want to alert you that there have been a series of bike thefts already. It is essential to always lock your bike to a secure bike rack with a sturdy lock when left unattended. If you observe any suspicious activity around bike storage areas, call Public Safety right away.”
According to Rohde, as of Friday, Sept. 23, there have been 12 bikes stolen in total this semester. A fair amount of these thefts have occurred in the area near HiRise and LoRise.
“The thefts were predominantly nighttime thefts,” Rohde wrote in an email to The Argus. “Some victims had not checked on their bikes for some time so it [is] uncertain when the actual theft happened.”
Also, a majority of these thefts occurred because bikes were not properly secured.
“The bikes taken were either not locked or had a very poor lock attached that was easily defeated by cutting or smashing,” Rohde wrote.
Rohde’s campus-wide email also included information regarding Public Safety’s extra precautionary efforts to prevent bike thefts.
“The suggestion came from the staff and has actually been done before here at Wesleyan,” Rohde wrote. “The process is that if an officer sees a bike that is at risk, a public safety lock is applied. On that lock are instructions to call Public Safety to have the lock removed.”
Students will not be charged for this service, but may buy the Public Safety lock if they so choose.
“The cost per lock is $20.00 and the cost can be added to the student’s bill,” Rohde wrote. “There is no obligation to buy the lock but it does give our staff an opportunity to educate the student about the situation and associated risks.”
A Public Safety lieutenant pitched this idea.
“It was started as a proactive measure after a few thefts this semester,” interim Captain of Public Safety Paul Verrillo wrote in an email to The Argus. “Our second shift Lieutenant, Lt. [Fred] West, started the effort due to the fact that most bikes taken are either not secured or are secured loosely with a cable lock that can be easily compromised.”
As for the sale of the locks, Public Safety has been selling them for about 12 years as part of their crime prevention efforts. There are similar programs to this one at other universities.
Public Safety has also released a number of safety tips on their website. These include suggestions such as registering your bike’s serial number and other important information with Public Safety, parking your bike in a well-lit place, and personalizing your bike to make it less attractive to thieves.
“Although they are frequently used, lightweight cable locks do not provide adequate security on most campuses,” the website reads. “Many of these locks are easily cut. The best choice is a strong, reliable U-Lock. Solid steel is the strongest, the ideal steel is hardened against cutting yet maintains flexibility.”
Verrillo emphasized the importance of recording the serial number of a bike, especially if the bike is located off campus.
“Please have a record of your serial number so we can have it as well as the Middletown Police who will enter it in a national database if stolen,” Verrillo wrote. “You can register your bike with Public Safety to have the information recorded. One of our second shift officers, Officer Matthews, started photographing bikes not secured properly and recording serial numbers which has helped us identify some recovered bikes.”
Rohde said that some bikes have been recovered in the Middletown area and are being returned to students.
“It is unfortunate anytime property is stolen,” Rohde wrote. “Bike theft is a crime of opportunity and often happens fast. Fortunately the police are working closely with Public Safety and several possible suspects have been considered. None of them are students…. My advice is to be proactive, always lock your bike and avoid bringing very expensive bikes to campus.”