Campus Safety Focuses on Decreasing Bike Thefts

About a month ago, Frank Bedoya, Pomona College's senior associate dean of campus life, witnessed a bike theft. 

“I observed a car drive up by the bike racks over by Pomona Hall,” Bedoya said.

Bedoya then saw two people with backpacks leave the cars and approach the bike racks. Suspicious, he called campus safety and came outside in time to see one of the people ride away on a bike.

According to Director of Campus Safety Stan Skipworth, the number of on-campus bike thefts increased from 105 in 2013 to 158 in 2014. This year, however, there have only been 45 bike thefts during the fall semester, compared to 92 during fall 2014.

But despite the decrease this semester, bike thefts are still the most common form of crime at the Claremont Colleges. Other thefts are also a problem, according to Skipworth. 

There were also 19 incidents each of assault and property damage, with 11 assaults occurring at Harvey Mudd College and nine cases of property damage at Pomona, according to crime statistics obtained from Campus Safety for fall 2015. In addition, there were 16 burglaries and 11 public disturbances.

Bedoya said that the colleges are "targets of opportunity" because college students are known to have valuable possessions like laptops and iPhones and often do not lock their doors. Bedoya said that thieves can walk along the outside of a dorm checking doors.

Bedoya said that because most thieves are not caught, he is unsure if the culprits are college students or outsiders, but he said that he thinks the culture of respect on campus points more to outsiders being the suspects. He wanted to encourage students to lock their doors and keep their keys on them at all times.

Due to the ongoing issues of bike theft, Campus Safety has implemented a way for people to register their bikes for 10 years through a free online bike registry, according to Skipworth.

“This has made our area much less desirable for would-be thieves, knowing that their ability to pawn these bikes, or possess them will turn up as being owned by someone else, and the complete bike information will be available on national stolen property systems used by law enforcement,” he wrote in an email to TSL.

However, according to Bedoya, who used to keep records of registered bikes, only a small percentage of people actually bother to register their bikes. This means that when someone is caught with a bike that isn’t theirs, there is no way to identify if the bike is actually a stolen bike and who its owner is. If Campus Safety or the Claremont Police Department find a bike, due to the lack of people who register their bikes, it is almost impossible to identify the true owner or arrest the suspect, said Bedoya.

According to data obtained for Fall 2015 from Campus Safety, Pomona College has the highest incidence of bike theft of the 5Cs with 26 incidents, which is twice as many as at Scripps College, the second-highest offender. Still, Skipworth wrote that there has generally been a trend towards fewer incidents.

Another reason for the drop in bike theft is that Campus Safety was able to apprehend several people who had been involved in thefts, according to Skipworth.

Skipworth wrote that Campus Safety has “strengthened [their] operational relationship with the Claremont Police Department and now regularly meet with their investigators and patrol personnel for local and regional crime trend information."

Bike thieves have, however, changed the way they steal bikes, according to Bedoya. Often, bikes that are secured with a cable lock are stolen, because these locks are very easy to cut.

“More recently, we’ve seen bike thefts where the thieves are actually cutting U-Locks,” Bedoya said.

In order to deal with crime across the 5Cs, there are field supervisors, or sergeants, assigned to each campus “to work with various representatives to learn more about trends or concerns that may be developing and allow us to work with them to help solve those problems,” Skipworth wrote.

These supervisors are actively involved in their specific campuses, meeting with on call deans and student event organizers, and assessing the effects of various preventative measures such as security camera network expansions.

Campus Safety also implemented the LiveSafe app last year in order to prevent and report crime at the 5Cs.

According to Skipworth, there are “now nearly 2,600 subscribers who have provided us with 1,954 tips, calls and notifications of suspicious or criminal behaviors witnessed on campus as well as hazardous conditions we have been able to immediately respond to and resolve.”