As bike thieves run rampant on campus, there may be a bigger problem to consider.
With a 57.6-percent increase of 85 to 134 bike thefts from 2010 to 2011, Penn’s campus seems to be a hot spot for bike thieves.
Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said the majority of stolen bicycles belong to students and that this is “a common problem at colleges across the nation.”
“Bike theft is often considered as a petty crime, but it isn’t always so — some students spend thousands on their bicycles,” Rush said.
Broken window theory
In handling bike theft and all other crime on campus, Rush refers to the broken window theory. If someone is stealing a bike outside a broken window, they become more prone to breaking into the house. Rush believes that if people become comfortable stealing bicycles at Penn, then they’ll gradually feel more at ease stealing larger things.
“University City, Drexel Police and Penn Police are looking at everything from petty crime to the biggest types of crime,” Rush said.
“People who used to be murderers get older and can’t do that anymore, so they turn to stealing wallets in line at Starbucks or taking something from the bookstore,” Rush said. “Our detectives find the source by which they’re operating out of.”
The theory that criminals such as murderers also commit petty crime has made the Division of Public Safety wary of even petty criminals such as bike thieves.
“In New York, Rudy Giuliani started focusing on all crime, including ‘minor crimes,’ such as people who jumped turnstiles at subways,” Rush said. “[Giuliani] discovered that some of these individuals had long criminal backgrounds.”
Preventing bike theft
Rush said oftentimes when DPS arrests someone, it consults the Campus Security Directors Association of the Delaware Valley to check his or her criminal history. Temple, Drexel and Villanova Universities are among those who participate in this network.
Gary Williams, Administrative Lieutenant of DPS, said the University City Public Safety Group has weekly development meetings to “spot developing crime patterns early on.”
Bike safety seminars often encourage students to use simple solutions — such as registering bikes through Campus Express, using a U-lock instead of a cable lock and avoiding locking bikes to wood fence poles or chained fences.
DPS has a policy of taking unlocked bikes around campus to store at their station in order to prevent bike thieves from stealing them.
If DPS staff members see suspicious activity, such as a person walking with two bicycles, they will stop the person to see if the bikes are registered.
Though she doesn’t regularly ride her bike around campus, Wharton sophomore Esther Huang is comfortable leaving her bike at the Harrison College House bike rack using a U-lock.
“The only two people I know who had their bikes get stolen were ones who locked their bikes to porches when they lived off campus,” she said.
“We have a very walkable campus. You can walk west to east, east to west in 15 minutes max. If you don’t have to use [a bicycle], don’t have it here,” Rush said.
However, many students still choose riding their bikes as their main mode of transportation.
College sophomore AJ Rossi rides his bike almost every day to get to class. He’s comfortable leaving it on campus, but at the end of the day, he puts his bike back in his basement.
“In the beginning of the year, my front wheel got stolen when I left it across the street from DRL,” he said.
He now uses two bike locks — a Kryptonite U-lock for the bike frame and a cable lock for the front tire.
Femi Fadugba, a second-year School of Arts and Sciences graduate student, had two bikes stolen on 39th and Walnut streets in the past two years.
“Mind you, I didn’t use a very good lock on either of those bikes and I also left them in the same place for way too long,” Fadugba said. “On the whole, I think if you’re sensible with your bike safety and riding, Philadelphia is a pretty safe and pleasant place to be a biker.”
Engineering sophomore Tara Siegel said she has seen people on campus searching for loose bike seats and locks.
“I did notify the Penn Police inside Rodin and they were right on it,” she said. “There are dangers of getting my bike stolen in such a large city, but on Penn’s campus and Center City I feel pretty secure.”
While the number of bike thefts on campus is increasing, Rush said the responsibility is not just on one group of people.
“It’s not just about the cops being good at apprehending [bicycle thieves],” Rush said. “Students have to be smart. Without you guys, we can’t stop bicycle thieves.”Comments powered by Disqus
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