The cycle of stealing

By Michael Riley

 

Every day in 2010, Cameron Barker would ride home from class to Benson Hall where he would secure his new $1,500 bicycle in the bike locker he had purchased at the beginning of year.

One night he broke the routine: Barker locked his bike outside on a bike rack with a chain combo lock.

The next morning, he walked outside and found his bike was stolen.

“I remember every time I told someone about my bike being stolen, they would always have a similar story to tell me about their own bike being stolen or someone that they knew,” Barker said. “It was happening all the time.”

Even though Barker had registered his bike with the campus police, at that point there was not much he could do except hope that the police recovered it.

Three years later, now a resident assistant, Barker said his residents and all students can feel safer about the being able to leave their locked bikes on campus.

The added peace of mind comes from the success of Bait Bike, a program started by the university to combat bike theft started more than two years ago.

Chief of Police Matthew Kiederlen said the new technology has completely reversed the bike theft trend on campus.

“In the 2010-11 school year, we had 37 bikes reported taken,” Kiederlen said. “Last year, we had a total of 14.  So far this semester, two have been reported.”

Erpelding
Erpelding

Through grants and a donation from Residence Hall Association, the UW-Whitewater Police Department purchased a tracking system and installed it on several bikes.  It cost about $4,000.

Campus police are using a combination of GPS and radio frequency technologies to track a “Bait Bike” set up to be stolen.

If the bike is stolen, police can then track it using cell phones, tablets or any number of devices.

They would then use a set of antennas on top of a squad car or other vehicle to triangulate the position of the “stolen” bike.

Sophomore Ryan Erpelding who rides his bike to Upham Hall every day said he did not even know the technology had been up and running for a while now.

Hanekamp

“I live off campus, so riding gets me to class faster,” Erpelding said.  “I have noticed unlocked bikes around campus, but I didn’t know it was it a part of a real program.  I have a pretty good lock, so I wasn’t really worried, but I am glad that my bike isn’t at risk.”

The key to success has been the bait bikes themselves and the education, said Officer Stephen J. Hanekamp, who was instrumental

“We encourage students to use the U-lock style steel bike locks,” Hanekamp said.  “They are more expensive, but we have never had one of those broken into.”

Hanekamp said the best way for a student to keep their bike safe other than locks and lockers, is to register your bike. The Campus Police keep a record of make, model and serial number so if that bike is recovered somewhere it can be returned.

“Even if you do live off campus, everyone register their bike with us,” Hanekamp said.

“For one, it is free and secondly, it has an identification on it.  It says UW-Whitewater with a number on it, and every police department knows what that means.”

Hanekamp said his department is being as proactive as possible to stop bike theft completely, but all student help is welcomed and necessary to accomplish these goals.

Sophomore Alexander Orchard said he appreciated the added security around campus because of an incident last year.

“Actually, my bike was stolen because I left my bike unlocked last year,” Orchard said. “I talked to the police and filled out a report.  They said it is not likely they will be able to find, but if they do they would be able to trace it back to me.  I am happy to know that bikes haven’t been getting stolen as often.”

As students become more aware, and the word continues to spread, Kiederlen said the goal is to completely eliminate the bike theft.  Even though the odds of that happening are pretty slim, the considerable reduction in the past few years gives him hope, he said.

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