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Monday, December 22, 2014

Bicycle thefts on campus increase

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By J.R. Oppenheim / New Mexico Daily Lobo

A row of bicycles sit parked at a bike rack on campus Tuesday evening. The UNM Police Department reported a 70 percent increase in bicycle thefts 2013-14 school year compared to the previous year.

The number of bicycle thefts on campus increased by 70 percent during the 2013-14 academic year, the UNM Police Department reported.

UNMPD and the UNM Global Education Office are trying to find ways to counter bike thieves operating on campus by employing random security sweeps, bicycle registration and increased outreach and awareness efforts.

“From Aug. 1, 2012, to July 31, 2013, we had 123 reported stolen bikes. However, from Aug. 1, 2013 to July 31, 2014, we had 209 reported stolen bikes,” Lt. Tim Stump, information officer for UNMPD, said.

Police officials said the new online reporting system for bike thefts implemented in Aug. 2013 could account for some of this increase. However,

Stump said the most common crimes on campus are thefts because anyone is free to roam about the campus. Due to UNM’s open campus policy it can be difficult for police to keep an eye on each and every individual, he said.

Stump stressed the need to make students more aware of the security of their belongings on campus.

“Bike thefts are the biggest right now. Because it is an open campus, people are free to come and go as they please, but that also means the students need to be more vigilant about their stuff,” Stump said. “They need to be more prepared when they walk around campus, whether it is day or night.”

On of the ways students can prevent their bicycles from being stolen is by making sure they always lock them to a secure bike rack using a quality lock, Stump said.

UNMPD recommends U-locks, which are relatively stronger and more difficult to break. Although some thieves can disable these, Stump said it is much less common than with cheaper locks.

UNMPD conducts full patrols and random building checks throughout the evening to control crime, checking bike racks, Johnson Field and Johnson Center regularly, he said.

The Global Education Office is trying to create awareness about security issues among new students, especially international students, during orientations.

“If you are going to bring an expensive bike to campus, spend a few extra dollars on a quality locking device and learn how to properly secure your bike with it,” said Miriam Rea Mora, international advisor at the Global Education Office.

She also advised students not to roam around campus alone at night.

Other universities with open campuses around the country are finding it difficult to control thefts on campus.

At the University of California, Berkeley, police reported more than 236 bike thefts on its campus during the 2013-14 school year. Police there have also started awareness campaigns to control the crime.

“Bicycle theft is a tremendous problem on college campuses, and UC Berkeley is no exception. Bicycles and bicycle parts, including “quick release” seats and wheels, are in big demand, and thieves are well-equipped and organized,” Berkeley’s official website said.

UNM students can register their bicycles with UNMPD online at police.unm.edu. Students who wish to register bicycles can send in a photo and description of their bike, and the department will engrave it at no cost, to help identify it and return it if it is stolen and later recovered.

Students whose bikes have been stolen can file a report on the website as well.

Sayyed Shah is the assistant news editor at Daily Lobo. He can be reached at assistant-news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @mianfawadshah.