Bike thefts spikeEdit

Plain clothes police to patrol racks

By: HANK WEBSTER, Assistant News Editor, The Pitt News, 20-Jun-2007

During the entire month of May, five bicycles were reported stolen from on-campus bike racks. By June 14, however, twice that number of similar calls reached University Police.

All told, 10 bicycles have been reported stolen so far this month, including three on June 12 alone.

"No, it's not unusual," Ron Bennett of the University Police said. "There are less people around the bike racks [at this time of the year], which causes those who steal them to not be seen."

The actual number of thefts might be much higher though, since not all students report their stolen bikes to police.

Pitt senior David Shearer did not report his missing mountain bike to police on June 15 after it was stolen from the bike rack under the Forbes Avenue overpass. Shearer, who used the bike to get to class and to his job, left the bike unattended and unlocked for 10 minutes between 8 and 9 p.m.

When he returned it was gone.

"I only paid 10 bucks for it, so I didn't think it was worth the time," Shearer said.

According to Bennett, University Police were aware of the spike in thefts and have bolstered their presence around campus bike racks. Plain-clothes officers have been stationed in the vicinity of certain areas of concern. Police patrols have also been told to pay special attention to suspicious characters around bike racks.

Bennett said that, as far as he knew, most of the stolen bikes had been locked at the time of the robberies, but that many of the locks were not sufficient. He estimated that simple bolt cutters were being used in the crimes. "What I believe is the case is improper bike locks being used," he said.

The University Police recommended that cyclists buy U-bolt locks, which tend to persuade the average thief with bolt cutters to bypass the locked bike for easier prey.

As of yet, Pitt police have not found the perpetrator(s).

On June 7, a person reported to police that he had seen a suspicious person possibly in the act of stealing a bike from the rack in front of Posvar Hall. Police also questioned a suspicious individual in the 3900 block of Forbes Avenue on Sunday, June 10.

Neither episode turned up any concrete answers or evidence.

On June 15 Pitt police questioned a suspicious person loitering around lower campus bike racks. The investigation is still pending in this case.

Five of June's thefts happened between June 6 and 9, and four more were reported over the next five days. However, there have been no reported thefts since June 14.

Bennett doubted the possibility of random, unconnected culprits, predicting that nearly all the recent thefts have been the work of a few associated individuals. "More than likely it's two to three people who are doing it. Usually no more than three people," in these kinds of cases, Bennett said.

Although the bike thieves only grew more confident as measured by the increasing number of thefts in the first half of June, the absence of reported thefts in the last five days seems to have marked the end of this rash of bicycle burglaries.

On Friday Bennett said he was confident that the perpetrators would be caught soon. "If we apprehend someone tomorrow, it will almost certainly stop at once."

The University Police could not be reached at press time to say whether they believe that the individual questioned last Friday was involved in the earlier thefts.


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