Students offer thoughts on recent bike thefts

By Ben Bartenstein

One by one, bikes have been disappearing from campus over the last few months. While almost all bike racks on campus are still full, students have increasingly expressed frustration with the frequency of such theft. Some students say Macalester’s high rate of bike ownership and urban location foster a culture of common thievery. Ian Calaway ’16 said his bike was stolen last month from the Dupre bike rack. He said that he only used a chain lock, but now realizes the importance of a U-lock. Even so, several of his friends who used U-locks also had their bikes stolen. Calaway said in one night alone, he and his friends lost about $2,500 worth of bikes. “You could pay for a security system for a month for $2,500,” he said. As an MCSG representative, Calaway said he hoped some of the rollover MCSG funds would be put towards bike security. He would like to see a work-study job called SAFELock implemented on campus to monitor the bikes on campus. “I think there could be some sort of rounds to at least check them out,” he said. Since losing his bike, Calaway said that he is thinking carefully before purchasing another. “I’m going to buy a bike for five dollars and expect that it will get stolen next year,” he said. “I plan on having a lock that’s more expensive than my bike.” He said his parents were also concerned with the bike thefts. “They weren’t disappointed in me,” said Calaway. “They were disappointed in the area.” Oliver Kendall ’15 had his bike stolen during his first week of classes as a first-year last fall. “I had one of the metal rope locks,” he said. “Now I know that you need a U-lock.” Kendall thinks that people capitalize on the naivety of first-year students to steal bikes early in the fall. Clemens Pilgram ’15 agreed. “My guess would be that a new year of freshmen comes in [and] people don’t lock their bikes that securely,” he said. “Their bikes get stolen because people have figured, ‘If I want to steal a bike, it’s easy now.’” Contrasting Suggestions for Bike Protection Kendall and Luke Mielke ‘16 disagree on the best way to reduce bike thefts on campus. They did a joint interview at the Dupre bike racks, where they ranked the security of each lock. “This is vulnerable,” said Kendall, pointing to one bike. “I mean this bike right here, you could take the wheel off,” said Mielke. “Then the lock is no longer attached to the bike.” “Yeah, you shouldn’t put the lock around the wheel,” said Kendall, shaking his head. Mielke pointed out that even if a student properly secures his or her bike with a U-lock and chain lock, they are still susceptible to theft. “You walk to a hardware store,” he said. “You get a 3/4’’ steel bolt cutter. There’s no U-lock in the world that’s going to stop something like that.” Kendall suggested installing surveillance cameras at the bike racks. “In my high school, they installed surveillance cameras my freshman year, which I was really, really against because I considered it a huge breach of privacy,” he said. “But I’m leaning in the direction of, in a case like this—” Mielke butted in. “But what does the police do?” he said. “How many days did it take you to notice your bike was gone? What do they do when they say, ‘Oh that person five days ago stole a bike. What are we going to do? We can’t identify them.’” “Even if they had fake surveillance cameras, that would help,” said Kendall. “This is a very public place with many thousands of dollars worth of merchandise just chilling here and getting picked off routinely. Like, I don’t think it would be such a bad thing [to have a camera].” Pilgram said there are privacy concerns with cameras. “Besides,” he said, “I don’t know if they’re all that effective.” Pilgram proposed constructing an enclosed bike area with D-key access, like in Kirk Courtyard, in the overpopulated bike region around Dupre and Wallace. Pilgram said that expensive bikes are the most likely to get stolen. He advised students to send fancy bikes home. He said he’s started putting mud on his bike to make it appear less expensive. Pilgram said he was frustrated with the way Macalester Safety and Security responded to his stolen bike report last year. “They were like, ‘Well, we can’t really do much today. Call the police,’” he said. “I called the police. They didn’t do anything [either].” He said he felt the security officers did not take the theft seriously. “It sounded a lot like, ‘Okay, business as usual. Yet another college kid who has had a bike stolen,’” he said. “It didn’t sound like they were really putting much effort into it.” Security officer Robbie Seals said that Macalester Safety and Security’s role is reactionary. “If the student has the serial number and everything, we have them file a police report,” he said. He said the best way to prevent thefts is to have encased bike storage areas. Currently, he said only Kirk and the Veggie Co-op have such areas. “We haven’t had any taken from those areas that I’m aware of,” he said. Calaway, Kendall, Pilgram and Mielke all agreed that they hope this issue can be addressed for the sake of future bike owners and their bikes. “It troubles me because I know some kids next year will be down, will be like, ‘Oh my gosh, I just lost my bike,’ in their first month of school,” said Calaway. “Their bikes getting stolen from them will be one of their first impressions of Macalester.” refresh –>