Locking up bike theft on campus

As if getting around Coral Gables wasn’t hard enough already, another issue has made transporation even more difficult for some students on campus.

Bike theft, with 16 reported stolen last school year, is being addressed by the Department of Public Safety at UM. Due to the efforts by Public Safety, the average number of bicycle thefts has dropped over the last two years.

Public Safety Crime Prevention Coordinator John Pepper said the department has implemented several proactive and reactive bicycle theft prevention programs, such as distributing brochures about bike theft and educating students about different bike locks.

“We regularly go out around campus and look for bicycles that are locked improperly or not at all and we tag the bikes and let the students know that they can stop by Public Safety and learn about how to lock their bike,” Pepper said.

He also noted that there are several steps students can take to prevent bike theft, like registering their bike with Public Safety and receiving a free lock.

Though the Department of Public Safety has increased theft prevention efforts, some students, like junior Dante Porzilli whose bike was stolen during exam week last year, feel it is not enough.

“I didn’t even know I could get a free lock,” Porzilli said. “I didn’t find out until after I already bought another lock for my new bike.”

According to the Public Safety Crime Prevention office, students purchasing a lock should look for an On Guard U-Lock, which has been statistically proven to be 90% more effective than cable or chain locks in preventing theft. On Guard U-Locks normally cost $35.00, but can be picked up at Public Safety free of charge.

“The advantages to a U-lock are that it doesn’t succumb to shear force like a cable lock does,” said Peter Rossie, mechanic for RB Cycles across the street from UM’s Coral Gables campus. “If I had a pair of cable cutters I swear I could get through a cable lock in 20 seconds. The U-lock is steel so you would need a hacksaw to break through and it would take a long time.”

Rossie mentioned another theft problem that even a secure bike lock can’t prevent.

“A lot of people lock the back of the bike’s frame, but then people will steal the wheels,” he said.

Even if students take the necessary precautions like registering their bike with Public Safety and properly securing their bike with a lock, other factors impact bike security.

“I wish there was more space on campus to leave my bike,” said senior Ben Bruno, who just started riding a bike on campus this year. “Then I could always secure it properly and have a place to connect the lock.”

Other students agree that limited bike space is a security problem on campus.

“It’s not like the university puts that much effort into security,” said sophomore Sean Murphy who has had a bike on campus since Spring of last year. “It’s kind of disappointing how crowded the bike racks are when it’s so cheap to make a bike rack.”

Pepper recognized a lack of bike space during the day when most students have class and discussed the issue with Facilities and Planning, the university department in charge of maintaining and installing all bicycle racks on campus.

“Facilities has already been working to re-develop a fair and legal procedure for removing bicycles presumed to be abandoned,” Pepper said. “As soon as procedures are finalized, immediate actions will be taken.”

In the case of a bike theft, students should contact Public Safety by dialing 305-284-6666 or 8-6666 from a campus phone.

Karyn Meshbane may be contacted at k.meshbane@umiami.edu.