Number of bike thefts increase this fall

A total of 13 bikes have been reported stolen to the University
Police Department this semester. ORACLE PHOTO/CHAVELI GUZMAN

As the number of on-campus bike thefts continues to rise this semester, some students are left feeling frustrated their mode of transportation has been stolen from them.

So far this semester, a total of 13 stolen bikes were reported to the University Police Department (USFPD). This number is higher than the reported number of stolen bikes last year, —  Aug. 1 to Sept. 23 — which was eight.

However, USFPD Officer Michael Lebron said the total number of reported bike thefts has decreased since 2015, but the situation has not been completely resolved given that the total number of reported stolen bikes for the fall 2017 semester was 40.

After colliding face-to-concrete from being hit off her bicycle by a car on the corner of USF Willow street, Sophomore Lauren Ferguson never thought her bike experiences couldn’t get any worse.

Then her bike was stolen on campus.

A few days after her accident, Ferguson purchased a neon green bike that read, “Regions Bank” to get the attention of drivers when crossing the street.

As a resident of Beta Hall, Ferguson locked her bike in the front of the building — close to the Beta classrooms. It was from there that her bike was stolen.

Bikes stored by residence halls have a higher probability of getting stolen than in other areas on campus, according to Lebron. He said this is likely because there is a larger contingency of bikes for a longer period of time compared to other racks on campus.

Pre-nursing student Austin McCarthy said he believes students are not reporting bike theft because of students like himself with unregistered bikes.

Lebron said the chances of retrieving a stolen bike is more likely if it is registered with a serial number. The registered serial number is documented in the state database, as well as police records.

There are other ways to prevent property from being stolen according to the USFPD website which states, “the University Police will assist you in engraving your Driver’s License number on your property so if it is reported stolen and recovered it can be returned to you without delay.”

If Ferguson was going to buy a bike again, she would make a greater effort to register it, but she does not that think that is in her future anytime soon.

“I want to get a new bike, but it’s not worth it anymore,” Ferguson said. “I can’t justify spending another $80 to $100 on a bike that will probably end up being trashed.”

McCarthy had his bike stolen at USF while he was working.

McCarthy biked from his off-campus apartment Sept. 2 to work his shift at the Marshall Student Center (MSC). Four hours passed by and McCarthy went back to the east entrance of the MSC — facing the parking lot near the Castor Residential Hall — where he locked his bike to discover it was missing. After searching the perimeter of the MSC for 30 minutes, McCarthy said he accepted defeat and had to walk the distance back home after coming to the conclusion that his bike was stolen.

McCarthy did not report the missing bike to USFPD because he said it would be a waste of time for him since there was no proof the bike was his.

“I feel like I would have called it in and they wouldn’t be able to do anything, plus it happens so often that they probably hear the same thing over and over again,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said he is looking into purchasing a new bike and a U-Lock — a “U” shaped lock made with heavy duty cable — in the future instead of the wire lock he was using before.

If a bike is stolen, according to Lebron, officers will review footage if there is any available, talk to nearby witnesses, check local areas for pawn shop history, search to see if the bike was put up for sale and search for any impounded bikes.

Based on the information and data officers have, Lebron said they look for patterns and refocus patrol areas and time frames.

Lebron said officers do not implement policies — such as a policy for bike rack cameras — but they make suggestions for the other departments, like Student Government or Housing & Residential Education who may approach USFPD with ideas.

“Residential Housing (Housing and Residential Education) wanted an increase in cameras for The Village,” Lebron said. “We can make a recommendation and say we would like to have cameras near the bike racks, but after reviewing the budget and reviewing if there’s adequate coverage the decision is there’s to go forward from there.”