Walking around to the back of his house last Wednesday evening, junior Keane Daly expected to find his bike locked to a pole. Instead, he found an open lock and nothing else. Daly had used a wire lock with a letter combination system to keep his bike safe, but it made no difference.
“I locked it, but I guess I didn’t move the letters enough,” Daly said. “The lock was just open, still around the pole.”
Unfortunately, Daly is not alone. He and his roommate, who also had his bike stolen, were just two of many bike theft victims during the first few weeks of school. Between Sept. 29th and Oct. 11th, 16 bikes have been stolen on campus — a 62 percent increase over last year. Of these 16, seven had traditional cable or wire locks like Daly’s.
The biggest problem with the recent thefts comes from the locking mechanism of the other nine bikes. Each had been secured with the DPS-recommended U-locks. Captain Ed Rinne of the Department of Public Safety has been monitoring these recent thefts.
“There are some older U-locks that we think have been broken by using a ball point pen,” Rinne said. “We still suggest U-locks. I don’t know of any others that are better. But they should have laser-cut keys.”
The difference between the effectiveness of a cable lock and a U-lock is the time it takes to break it.
“Cable locks can be cut in seconds,” Rinne said. “U-locks generally take longer.”
Sometimes more extreme measures are taken because of changes in how bikes are made.
“Some people are cutting through the frames of the bikes,” Rinne said. “Bikes are being made out of a different alloy that’s a much softer material.”
There has been a spike in thefts of bikes parked at residence halls as well. Earl and Bean West are two of the dorms with the most theft so far.
“It’s a target-rich environment,” said Monica Hildebrand, a criminal intelligence analyst for DPS. “Every year, there’s a lot of thefts once the students come back.”
For freshman Nourah Latif, the safety of her bike was never in question.
” I thought U-locks were the best,” Latif said. “I’ve left my bike in the same spot since the first week of school.”
She checks her bike every time she walks past it, of course. But much like Daly’s bike, it is not registered with DPS. This means that if the bike is stolen, DPS has no way to identify the bike if it is ever found. Still, DPS patrols the bike racks often to prevent this from happening and recommends that students contact them even if their bike is stolen.
“We try to see what type of lock is used and if there are metal shavings near the racks,” Rinne said. This data helps DPS figure out how thieves are breaking locks and help them prevent it in the future.
In the West University neighborhood the theft rates are always rather high. But bike theft is a problem all over Eugene. A total of 49 bikes have been stolen in the last three weeks; 42 bikes had been stolen during the same time period last year.
“No lock is undefeatable,” Rinne said. “But making it more difficult for thieves will help keep bikes safer.”