Those who use bicycles as a main mode of campus transportation may have noticed something strange in the
past few months. Bike theft is not a rare occurrence, but the theft rate for the K-State campus and Riley County has drastically increased, doubling from last year.
Capt. Don Stubbings, of the K-State Police Department, said that this increase in bike thefts has been relatively recent.
“Last month we noticed more thefts than normal,” Stubbings said. “Two to three bicycles are being stolen per week now.”
The increase in bicycle thefts has occurred all around campus, including near the residence halls.
“Today, we went to a residence hall for a stolen bike report,” Stubbings said.
While K-State is just now seeing the effects of increased bike theft, for Riley County as a whole, this has been a problem for months.
“We’ve seen the bike theft rate double since last year,” said Darla King, Riley County Police Department community relations officer. “We had 15 stolen in September, 17 in August, 15 in July, nine in June and 13 in May.”
Both the K-State Police and RCPD are currently investigating to discover who is behind the thefts.
“Sometimes stolen bicycles can be difficult,” Stubbings said. “There’s so many. When your bicycle is left unsecured, there’s a good chance it will get stolen within your college career.”
King said that the difficulty in catching the criminals lies in their purpose for committing the crime.
“It’s not real easy, especially when people sell the stolen bikes to their friends on the street,” King said. “But when they chop them up and sell them on eBay, it’s a lot easier to recover.”
Stubbings also said that the thieves were specifically targeting expensive bicycles throughout campus. According to Stubbings, the sudden increase may be coincidental.
“It could be random, or they may be connected,” Stubbings said. “A higher value bike is attractive to a thief.”
King said that there must be more going on than just a rash of stolen bicycle cases.
“It’s harder to catch them if they’re just stealing for personal use,” King said, “But that can’t be what’s happening here. There absolutely is a connection.”
When reporting a stolen bike, the most useful information to have is the bike’s serial number. According to Stubbings, the serial number can be used to recover the bike, no matter where it is found, by inputting the number into the National Crime Information Center, a national index of criminal justice information.
For students who don’t know or remember their bike’s serial number, that information can be recorded and stored for you by registering your bicycle with K-State. Darwin Abbott, director of parking services, said that the process of recovering a bike is much simpler with registration.
“We take the data, record it and send the details to the police,” Abbott said. “Years from now, if your bike is stolen, and you don’t remember the serial number, you can know that you registered it.”
Registering a bike includes recording the make, model, color and wheel size.
“Police check it out from there, and they know exactly what they’re looking for,” Abbott said.
The bikes recently stolen in the Riley County area tend to be the most expensive.
“We’re talking about $800, $900, $1,000 bikes,” King said.
Stubbings said that students need not even purchase a bike of that expense if it is just to be used on campus.
“Really, you shouldn’t bring those expensive bikes out,” Stubbings said. “Keep the expensive ones indoors.”
Stubbings said that victims of bike theft often don’t purchase locks that can withstand typical garden shears or other tools, so he suggests investing in a strong lock, and purchasing a cheaper, used bike for
“Lock your bike in a visible area, as well,” Stubbings said. “A theft won’t come after it’s locked in a public bike rack as much as if it were locked outside back behind the dorms.”
According to Abbott, information about bike registration is slowly spreading. The amount of bike registration has increased from last year, and one-fourth of the bikes on campus are now registered. Bicycle registration offers other possible incentives, as well.
“If a bike is parked illegally, if it’s registered, the police can just write a citation instead of impounding it,” Abbott said.
Abbott recounted a story about a student whose bike was stolen at K-State. The resgistration number on the bike allowed police to track it to New York City, where it was found.
“Registration really helps in the process of recovering your bike,” Abbot said.
As far as slowing the crime rate, King believes that the crimes will ebb if the public becomes more aware.
“You never know. The investigation may prove fruitful,” King said. “We’re making the public aware that this is happening, to get people to lock up. We want to reach out to the civilian population about this.”
Students can offer help to the authorities if they witness theft via anonymous tips. The K-State Police Silent Witness website allows anyone to report crimes and stay anonymous. Students can visit the page at ksu.edu/police/silent.
Stubbings also offered some advice for students.
“And if you’re gonna buy a $1,000 bicycle, don’t buy a $10 lock,” he said.