Patrols, tips, precautions help put brakes on bike thefts

Federal crime statistics released recently show that bicycle thefts – UC Davis’ No. 1 offense – are down considerably on campus over the past few years.

Bike heists have decreased 73 percent since 1994, according to an annual FBI campus crime report. That year, the campus police department received 928 reports of stolen bikes. In 2000, the number was 252, down from 262 in 1999. In the same report, UC Davis Medical Center noted two bicycles stolen in 2000, down from 13 in 1999.

The campus decrease is the result of years of heightened attention to the crime problem including the installation of better bike racks and offering more anti-theft education, said UC Davis Police Capt. Rita Spaur.

Since Police Chief Calvin Handy arrived on campus in 1993, and Spaur joined the force the following year, the department’s priority has been on ridding the campus of bike crime, Spaur said.

Along with providing theft prevention tips, the department has stepped up officer bike and walking patrols of areas where bikes are most frequently snatched, such as residence halls, she said. The department has also pushed for authorities to pursue appropriate charges against bike thieves – ususally campus outsiders – who are caught.

According to the FBI statistics, UC Davis recorded its biggest one-year bike theft reduction between 1996 – when the police reported 622 bikes stolen – and 1997 when 382 were reported lifted.

UC Davis bicycle program coordinator David Takemoto-Weerts said he was surprised yet pleased to hear of the decrease over the years.

He speculated the decline could be attributed to improvements in bike parking made over the past few years. Each year TAPS replaces old concrete bike pods with steel racks. These structures allow a bike to be secured to the rack as well as locked through the wheel to itself.

Several years ago TAPS also installed bike lockers designed to store high-quality commuter bikes at Hickey Gym, Recreation Hall and the south parking garage, Takemoto-Weerts said. He worries, however, the theft decrease could also be attributed to fewer students and employees taking the time to file a stolen bike report. "If your $20 yard- sale bike is stolen, you go out and buy another one," Takemoto-Weerts said.

Spaur said she did not believe fewer campus cyclists were reporting thefts. Regular campus bicycle commuters interviewed say they, too, were surprised to hear of the decrease. Many say they still are cautious about where and how they park their bikes on campus.

"I worry about (theft) all the time," said ecology graduate student Cecilia Scurrah-Ehrhart who rides a purple mountain bike around campus. "Every time I park my bike I use two locks, and I always lock it to something."

Architectural associate Monica Pappas, who commutes to and from Sacramento via bike, says she prefers the security of the bike lockers. The metal structures offer no hint that her Italian racing bike and gear are inside.

In his 27 years of bike commuting, computer systems manager Dan Shadoan says he has seen a drop in the quality of bikes parked. "I believe there is less to be stolen," said Shadoan, who works at Crocker Nuclear Lab. "When I look around I see $125 mountain bikes or bikes that are old and rusted and don’t work all the time."

At the same time, the caliber of locks UC Davis commuters are using has improved. Shadoan – who has never had a bike stolen – also advises riders to ride an easily identifiable bike to ward off thieves. He rides a Dutch single-speed model he bought in 1980.

"After a while you understand what it takes not to get a bike stolen," Shadoan said.

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Amy Agronis, Dateline, (530) 752-1932,

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