Bicycle theft on the rise, says GTPD

Stolen bicycles and scooters are common on-campus crimes of convenience, according to GTPD officers. // Photo by Tuna Ergan Student Publications

Over the past month and a half, Tech has seen a rapid uptick in cases of bicycle thefts on campus.

While there is no real indication as to why this is happening right now, a prominent underlying cause of bike thefts is simply opportunity.

Many Tech students, faculty and staff use bicycles and other two-wheeled vehicles, such as mopeds and scooters, to transport themselves around campus, making the school prone to targeting for bike theft.

“All we can say is that it’s a crime of convenience,” Chris Huggins, a criminal investigator with the Georgia Tech Police Department (GTPD), said. “[Bike thiefs] are always looking for the easiest target. … The biggest common denominator is that people are using poor devices to secure their property. They’re using cable locks, which is basically a cable wire which runs through [the bicycle]. Those are very easy to cut. Most bike perpetrators carry the common bolt cutters, where it’s very easy to cut it, and they’re gone.”

The perpetrators of the crime are predominantly not students, and GTPD has seen a handful of thieves come back to steal multiple bikes.

The cases started to rise in mid-September in East Campus housing and has since migrated to West Campus housing. An incident even occurred in family housing off of North Campus.

GTPD heavily encourages students to practice bike safety and secure their vehicles through social media and other initiatives.

The biggest factor in keeping one’s bike safe is to secure it with a bump lock rather than a cable lock. Cyclists should also use an extra chain lock to secure their back wheel, as some thieves will take just a wheel instead of the whole frame.

Vehicles should also be locked to a bike rack near a building, rather than to a pole or other location, which tend to be less secure.

Prior to an incident, everyone who uses a bicycle on campus can register their bikes and scooters at police.gatech.edu/registration.

“[This way,] if their bike were to come up missing and it were to wind up at a local pawn shop, we have a way to tie it back to the original owner,” said Robert Rodrigeuz, GTPD crime prevention officer.

“If we find a bicycle somewhere on campus, it makes [the victim’s] life easier, because we don’t have to find out who the bike belongs to, and we don’t have to wait for a victim [to report the incident], because they might not ride their bike that often, and they may not realize for four months that their bicycle was stolen.”

Rodriguez has been creating graphics for social media and pamphlets to pass out around campus with theft prevention tips for cyclists.

“Our other units go out and make sure when they’re patrolling to check those areas and if they see a bike that’s not locked up, we have these locks that will lock it up that have our number on it,” said Benjamin Taylor, GTPD’s social media coordinator.

“If it’s someone’s bike that needs it and it has our lock on it, they can call us to come unlock it so they can go, and that way, it doesn’t get stolen if it’s left unsecured.”

Since mid-October, the cases have been declining, in part due to the safety information initiatives, but also due to active investigations.

“In terms of scooters, we were successful in arresting two perpetrators and recovering two scooters by aggressively investigating,” Huggins said.

“When we get those results, that spreads around in the community too, as far as their willingness to come back, because they understand that we are taking this seriously. Things have definitely toned down in the last couple of weeks.”

In every situation, the victims could have easily prevented the situation entirely by taking an extra several minutes to lock up their vehicle, even if that meant that they would have been a few minutes late to class.

“With the people that I’ve dealt with that have had stuff stolen, they don’t realize how much of an inconvenience it is until they get stuff stolen,” Taylor said.

Students can learn more about bike and campus safety by following @GaTechPD on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Students can also reach out to GTPD at any time with new proposals on security initiatives.

“We’re always trying to build new relations, so if there’s someone we aren’t currently partnering with, we’re open to that,” Rodriguez said.

“We’d love to sit down with current organizations and figure out how we can help each other become a stronger and safer community.”