Thieves have now snatched thirty-two bikes from residence halls since the start of the semester, according to a police spokesman.
Seventeen were reported stolen last week, and five were reported stolen yesterday alone.
They’ve disappeared during the daytime – when students are in class and residence hall front desks are largely unmanned.
Officers said the University’s police force could have prevented the thefts in years past when UP was better staffed.
“This is a huge spike; we didn’t have anything like this last year,” said Captain Bob Staehle, director of operations. “Normally, when we have enough officers, we put them out on surveillance – when we had these in the past and we had enough officers – we put them out in plainclothes and on bikes.”
Sergeant Tom Bobrowski said the short staffing at UP – about 40 officers, less than half the staff of the University of Florida’s police department – has slowed efforts to stop the thefts.
“(There’s) a lot of paperwork. If four officers are working, and three are tied up writing reports for bike thefts, it’s very difficult to go out and find the thieves,” said Bobrowski.
Seventy-five percent of the bikes were stolen from the Holly and Maple Residence Hall areas – east Holly Drive between Maple and North Palm in the northeast quadrant of campus.
Originally, the robberies took place between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., but now bikes are being lifted during the daytime, officers said.
A detective assigned to the case is working to establish whether the bikes are being resold.
“If (students) see anything suspicious, they should call 911 immediately,” said Staehle. “One of the most frustrating things is that people are waiting 10 to 15 minutes to call in suspicious activities.”
Students should look for two people riding one bike, individuals riding a bike with another in tow, or people standing around bike racks with a backpack, Staehle said.
“We really need community
involvement; we’re having people that are witnessing thefts in progress, that are waiting several hours to report it,” said Bobrowski. “Students are our eyes and ears right now. Until we get more police officers in here and more manpower on the street, people are going to continue stealing these bikes until they are caught red-handed.”
Students who keep their bikes on campus should invest in a high quality metal lock, because the thieves are targeting bikes with cable locks, officers said.
Christine Gibson can be reached at (813) 974-1888 or firstname.lastname@example.org