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University Police have noted a slight increase in bike thefts this September. Experts say that the three additional thefts should not be cause for alarm, but encourage students to exercise caution. [Ari Friedman/The Daily Pennsylvanian]

Though University Police officials have expressed concern about a recent rise in bicycle thefts, the slight hike may be nothing more than a statistical aberration, according to some.

"We've been having an inordinate amount of bike thefts on and around campus," Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said last week.

In fact, bicycle thefts were up 9 percent this September, with 36 thefts this year, compared to 33 last year for the same month, according to the University Police Department.

In a letter printed in The Daily Pennsylvanian, Rush cited this increase as one of the factors that complicated the recent arrest of Rui DaSilva.

DaSilva, the associate faculty master of Spruce College House, was stopped by University Police on Oct. 11 while transporting bicycles between 36th and 37th streets on his way to the Quadrangle. Although he was cited for disorderly conduct, the charge was later dropped.

But while noting an increase in bike thefts did occur in August and September, Chief of Police Thomas Rambo said this is not reflective of numbers for the entire year.

"We are down 29 percent in bike thefts this year compared to last year," Rambo said of the periods between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30 of last year.

Whereas there had been 126 bicycle thefts around the University by Sept. 30 of last year, there were only 89 this year by that date.

And while the increase in thefts earlier in the school year continued through the beginning of October, "it's gone down in the last week," Rambo said.

Citywide, bicycle thefts were down this year as well. Last year, there had been 1,540 thefts between Jan. 1 and Sept. 1, while this year there was a decrease of about 10 percent to 1,402 in the same period, according to the Philadelphia Police Department. Numbers for the month of September were not available.

Still, Rambo said that the UPPD had already made "several" arrests of bicycle thieves this year.

"It's a crime and we're concerned about it," Rambo said.

He said that the UPPD was especially concerned after the Sept. 27 arrest of Michael Johnson and Juan House in Levy Park during an attempted bicycle theft in which one of the individuals was armed. At the time of the arrest, Johnson was in the possession of a .380 pistol.

Still, according to Lawrence Sherman, the director of the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology, the 9 percent increase in thefts around the University is nothing to get worked up about.

An increase of three thefts "could easily be a chance difference," Sherman said. He added that to call that an increase in bicycle thefts could be considered exclamatory.

"This basic point about noise, about chance fluctuation is very poorly understood," Sherman said. Even police officers often misunderstand how slight changes in data often may not reflect actual changes in criminal habits or patterns, he emphasized.

Furthermore, spikes in bicycle thefts in September are not uncommon, Philadelphia and University officers agreed.

PPD Sergeant Roland Lee said that these thefts are generally more frequent around college campuses, where students own expensive bicycles and do not properly secure them. He mentioned Temple and La Salle as other universities in the area that deal with similar bicycle theft issues.

"It's just a fall increase," Rambo said.

He said that there is usually a rise in bicycle theft in September, upon the arrival of college freshmen who are not used to life in a big city.

"What we have seen is that some of the bikes that have been stolen, they have been secured to just a tire," Rambo said.

He added that while bicycles do get stolen from the racks placed around the center of campus, most of those taken are from "west of 40th Street."

Rambo emphasized that there are actions that can be taken by students to prevent such thefts, which include registering bicycles with the Police Department, securing bicycles properly to well-lit racks and keeping bicycles inside houses off campus, rather than propped on porches.

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