When it comes to bike locks the University of Miami Police Department’s track record is perfect.
The locks they issue have never been broken by a thief at UM.
Testimonial for the quality of these locks was given by a man caught after stealing several bikes on campus last year.
“One of the things the bike thief commented on was that when he saw a UMPD lock he did not even attempt to steal the bike,” said Officer George Baixauli. “He was cutting the cable locks.”
To deter future thefts, police officers go around to the different bike stations on campus and take note of all bikes that are unsatisfactorily locked or have nothing more than a basic cable lock on them.
They will then place a police-issued red lock on the bike which the owners can only have removed after they have visited the police station and provided the proper registration.
The police department will give every student a lock, which retails for around $40, free with their registration. Students may purchase additional locks at cost.
While the policy itself is not new, the police department plans to have its officers conduct more thorough checks around campus.
Life after Abandonment
Through sweeps performed by the UMPD, hundreds of bikes have been confiscated that were deemed abandoned by university police.
Pepper estimates that only five to 10 percent of students actually go to reclaim their bicycles after they have been taken.
“We confiscate anywhere from 40 to 100 bicycles per search, so we are definitely going to provide more open rack space for people who use bikes regularly and need a place to store it,” he said.
In the event that an officer finds a bike that is deemed abandoned or in poor condition, they place a red notice on the bike telling the owner that they have 20 days to contact UMPD or move it before it is confiscated.
“After the 20 days, we go back and if the bike is still there we take it,” said Pepper. “We put it in our storage area for 90 days and put a picture on our website. If it’s registered we even try and contact the owner.”
If nothing happens in the 90 days, the bicycle becomes university property, where a committee of administrators and police department personnel decides what to do next.
“We have the opportunity to sell them, to give them away to charity, or to keep them for university business,” said Pepper, who went on to say that the school is much more inclined to use or donate them than to make a sale.
Some abandoned bikes went to catch a bike thief last year as they were used as bait.
“Bait bikes represent whatever the thieves have taken in the past,” Baixauli said.
Students are grateful for the police department’s efforts to promote bicycle security, especially around the residential colleges, where the highest concentration of bicycles can be found.
“I used to ride my bike a good deal when I lived on campus,” said recent graduate Ben Annotti. “I never had my bike stolen or confiscated, but I always noticed the police’s tags on bikes, especially outside of Hecht. And the fewer bikes they can steal, the fewer other things they can steal.”
Baixauli echoes Annotti’s belief that enhanced bicycle security will parlay itself into enhanced campus security.
“When you start hardening the target, you start attracting fewer thieves to the campus,” he said. “Thieves aren’t just here for bicycles. They won’t walk past an unattended laptop or something like that. It’s all interrelated.”