Bike Theft Rises Across 5Cs, Administration Responds

When bikes are unlocked, stealing one is as easy as riding it. And though the simplest solution to this crime is often the strongest—a hefty lock—the Claremont Colleges are also turning to high-tech tactics to combat continued thefts.

Since 2010, the five undergraduate colleges of the Claremont Colleges have seen an increase in
the rate of bike theft. In
2014 so far, 85 bikes have been stolen from the five campuses, compared to 52 bikes in
2010.

Campus Safety has worked with the
Claremont Police Department to both help recover stolen bikes and capture organized gangs of bike thieves. Working with the police, Campus Safety has been able to place “bait bikes,” unlocked bikes with attached tracking devices left out deliberately to catch
thieves, throughout the campuses, according to Pomona College Vice President and Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum.

Administrators
said that it becomes difficult to return recovered bikes if students do not register their bikes. 

“A lot of the issues we have is that there isn’t a victim matched to the crime,” said Chris Sundberg, Associate Dean of Students and Dean of Campus Life at Harvey Mudd College. “Not a ton of people register, but at least if Claremont PD
finds the bike, we can find it as well.” 

Feldblum said that the administration instructs all students to register their bikes.

“Now do
we have full compliance on that? No,” she said. “But it really makes a difference when
police do capture suspects. Bike registration is something an individual can do
to be proactive.”

Administrations across the 5Cs have also installed security cameras near bike racks and other areas at high
risk for theft. Feldblum said that these security cameras are vital to
the colleges’ ability to combat bike theft. 

“The video cameras in the past have
been seen as just a deterrent, but in recent years have really helped to
capture bike thieves,” she said.

Some students voiced concern about the installation of security
cameras near the entrances of residence halls. According to Feldblum, the Pomona administration has consistently maintained that the security cameras are meant to deal
with crime, not with violations of school policy. 

“It’s not about
us looking at a bike theft and finding a student carrying in a six-pack,” Feldblum said. “We’ve
made it very clear that policy violations will not be pursued.”

Administrators are also working with the Associated Students of Pomona College to create a committee of representatives from student government, the facilities office and Campus Safety to make sure that the video cameras are being used in an appropriate way by the appropriate people.

Alex Lee PO ’17, one of the victims of bike theft last semester, said that student education is important for preventing bike theft. 

“I think Pomona can remind students that bike theft is a real thing and emphasize the danger more,” she said. “I always locked my bike by the wheel, and thought it would be OK until it was stolen.”

Pitzer College Associate Dean of Students for Campus Life Drew Herbert
said that the one of the main challenges of dealing with bike theft was getting
students to lock their bike correctly. Herbert said that bikes not locked properly could be easily stolen by anyone with the appropriate tools.

“The only
safe place to lock your bike to the rack is the frame,” Herbert said.

At the end of the day, there is one clear solution, according to Sundberg. 

“It’s just education,” Sundberg said. “You’ve got to lock your bike.”

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