Every ASU student knows this: if you ride your bike on campus, bring a lock, and even then, be prepared to come home from class with theft.
It happened to Sara Hambleton last month. Hambleton, a second-year marketing student, parked her bike outside the Sun Devil Fitness Complex to go to work. She locked it with a U-lock, considered the most secure lock for bicycles.
She returned 40 minutes later; the bike had disappeared.
Stories like Habbleton’s are common.
This semester alone, 118 incidents of bike theft have been reported to the ASU Police Department, according to the University criminal records. Since 2017, 83 bikes have been reported stolen via Project 529an organization working to prevent bicycle theft in partnership with the University.
Project 529 Garage Outreach Manager Rob Brunt first met with ASU PD in June 2017. When he learned of the high level of bike theft on campus, he worked to start their Partnership.
Students can register with the free 529 Garage app, which creates a tamper-evident sticker with seven characters unique to each bike, like a license plate. Students can also upload photos so that if others see the bike online or someone riding it, they can alert the student. Every app user within a 20 mile radius receives a notification when the stolen bike alert is triggered, including bikes registered to a specific college campus.
Since the partnership with the University began, 1,376 bikes have been registered with Project 529 and 83 bikes have been reported stolen through the system, an ASU spokesperson said in an email.
Most police departments and college campus bike registries have isolated information that only they can access to try and recover stolen bikes, while the 529 Garage app brings the cycling community together to be on the lookout for a stolen bike, Brunt said.
Since the Project 529 partnership with ASU began, only two stolen bikes have been returned to their owners.
The bicycle is the only means of transport which is not associated with a number; there is no industry standard for serial numbers, which makes it difficult to identify bikes and easy to steal, Brunt said.
If other cyclists see the stolen bike, they can report it and the police are given the information as well as area bike shops who can search Project 529’s stolen database if the thief tries to sell the bike, Brunt said.
There is a fee for college campuses like ASU to use the system, depending on the school’s population, Brunt said.
ASU PD was able to transfer all of their information from the old system they used where you could only register your bike on campus, instead of the surrounding area, Brunt said.
“This winter we’re really going to be focusing on the neighborhoods (Tempe),” Brunt said. “We’ve had conversations with all the agencies surrounding campus, so we need to follow that.”
Often, due to a lack of coordination between agencies, such as police departments, less than 1% of bikes return to their owners, Brunt said.
“You can basically go to Craigslist, throw your stolen bike up there and sell it within hours,” Brunt said.
After reporting the theft to the ASU PD, Hambleton, who was checked in to the app, realized there were no cameras outside the SDFC, even though officers know that This is a high-flying area. Almost all of his colleagues have also been victims of bike theft, Hambleton said.
Steven Felix, a junior tech leadership student, had his bike stolen outside Wrigley Hall when he returned there after class. A month later, he still hasn’t gotten it back.
“I filed a complaint with the police but nothing came out. (ASU PD) said it was their number one problem on campus and the chances of getting my bike back were slim to none,” said Felix said in a text message.
Felix didn’t think his bike would be stolen in broad daylight and he never registered it with Project 529.
“While thieves tend to strike during times when there are fewer people on campus or in areas with low foot traffic, that’s not always the case,” the spokesperson said. ASU in the email. “Sometimes they do it in broad daylight in areas where other people are passing.”
Given the frequency of theft, many ASU students believe the University should do more to protect bicycles on campus from being stolen in the first place.
Ken Wang, a senior computer science student, said in an email that ASU could easily install a security camera system around the bike racks.
“It seems like ASU doesn’t care much about the bike theft problem, although they can easily help solve the problem,” Wang said.
Other ways to fight bike theft
Bike Saviors Bicycle Collective, a nonprofit in Tempe, shows bikers entering the store how to lock their bikes, where to lock them, and other methods they can use to deter a thief, said store manager Nicole Muratore .
Bike Saviors recommends registering bikes with the 529 Garage app, Muratore said.
“We encourage anyone who brings a bike to campus to register it. This way, if it is stolen and recovered, we can return it to the owner. We also encourage everyone to review the bike information and advice provided at this page“, said the spokesperson for the University.
It is recommended online to use a U-lock with a security gauge in the rear triangle of the bike, to protect the wheel and the frame, and a cable or a second U-lock is recommended to protect the front wheel, a said Muratore.
However, “no lock will be infallible, if someone wants to break through it, they will,” Muratore said.
“Bicycles are the only way for some people to mobilize because they are homeless or cannot afford a car,” Muratore said. “So when someone’s bike goes missing or it’s in bad shape, they’re in dire straits.”
Edited by Jasmine Kabiri, Wyatt Myskow and Kristen Apolline Castillo.
Alyssa BickleCommunity journalist
Alyssa Bickle is a staff reporter, writing for the Community and Culture office. She is a writing tutor for the Academic Success and Fellowship Programs at the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict. She is pursuing undergraduate studies in journalism and political science.
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