New police tactics lead to increase in bike theft arrests

Students are encouraged to use U-Locks and register their bikes with the ASU Police Department to prevent theft. (Photo by Kurtis Semph)

More bike thieves are getting caught this year after the ASU Police Department increased its bike technology budget to prevent theft and encourage bike registration.

There are an estimated 10,000 bikes on campus and police want to register at least half of those. Although they are 2,000 short of that goal, registrations have resulted in at least four arrests.

Commander Michele Rourke said the department is approaching its ultimate goal of reducing bike theft by 15 percent this semester.

Police have started using bait bikes with GPS tracking technology and hidden surveillance to find thieves. Information from bike registrations is being used to find the owners of recovered bikes.

This semester’s GPS trial period will determine its future use, she said.

The department is educating community members about protecting their property and reporting suspicious activity, Rourke said.

Although property theft isn’t dramatically rising, it is the most common crime on campus, Rourke said.

“We are responding to an issue affecting many students, staff and faculty,” Rourke said. “Our community is concerned about bike theft, which makes it an important issue to us.”

Parked bikes are always at risk for theft, but certain areas on campus present a greater risk, she said.

Residence halls, the Memorial Union and campus libraries are most at risk because of the high volume of bikes and the long hours they are left there, Rourke said.

Officer Brian Kiefling said this latest method is meant to catch thieves without expecting patrol officers to keep watch throughout the day.

“Catching bike thieves has become a two-pronged approach,” Kiefling said.

When students register their bikes, a specific serial number is generated and recorded into the ASU Police Department’s system.

If an officer suspects a bike is stolen, the officer can run the serial number through to pull up personal information and keep track of the bike, Kiefling said.

“Sometimes (bike thieves) are caught before the owner even realizes it was stolen,” Kiefling said.

The bike registration program was implemented a year ago after the Lock It or Lose It campaign ended, Kiefling said.

Members of the registration program have been using tents and banners on the Tempe campus to promote bike registration.

ASU Police have considered other measures including constructing a protected lot strictly for bikes, but the cost of real estate would mean eliminating another parking structure or lot on campus, Kiefling said.

In addition to registering bikes, police are encouraging students to use U-Locks rather than cable bike locks.

Exploratory freshman Holly Herzog’s mom urged her to register her bike, which she said makes her feel safer.

“I’m not as anxious now to leave my bike when I go to class, because I’ve secured it and now the school does too,” Herzog said.

She also uses a U-Lock to protect her property.

“What it comes down to is how a student cares for their own bike,” Herzog said. “If you want your bike badly enough, you will do whatever you can to protect it.”

 

Reach the reporter at mkthomp5@asu.edu